Fresh off upsetting the top three teams in the America East en route to the conference title, the 16th-seeded UMBC women's basketball team (16-16) will face Big East regular-season champion and top-seeded Connecticut Sunday at approximately 9:30 p.m. on ESPN2 in NCAA Tournament first round action.
RETRIEVER UPDATE: The cinderella story continues for UMBC, which is riding a three-game winning streak into its first-ever NCAA Tournament. The Retrievers upset second-seeded Stony Brook, 67-64, in the America East Tournament quarterfinals, then took down No. 3 Vermont, 67-56, in the semifinals on Saturday before shocking two-time defending champ and top-seeded Hartford, 48-46, for the program's first-ever conference title. UMBC is the first team in conference history to defeat the top three seeds in the league tournament. The Retrievers were just the third seven seed to reach the America East championship game, joining Stony Brook in 2002 and Maine in 1993, and the first to win the crown, becoming the lowest seed ever to advance to the NCAA Tournament out of the America East. Hartford was the previous low, as the Hawks were seeded fifth in 2002. Junior forward Amanda Robinson was named the tournament's Most Outstanding Player after averaging a tournament-best 15.3 ppg and 6.3 rpg. Senior forward Sharri Rohde (12.3 ppg, 6.3 rpg) and freshman guard Carlee Cassidy were also named to the All-Tournament Team. At 16-16 on the season, the Retrievers have posted the fourth-most wins in program history and the most since the 1990-91 team won 17 games. The No. 7 seed in the America East Tournament was UMBC's second-highest seed since joining the conference in 2003-04 after taking the fifth slot last season. The Retrievers were the 10th seed in their first two America East Tournaments. UMBC swept the season series from just one conference opponent - New Hampshire - and was swept by Hartford, Stony Brook and Maine in the regular season. UMBC is led by Rohde, an America East all-conference second team and all-defensive team selection, who is averaging 13.6 ppg and 6.5 rpg. Rohde is the only player in the America East to rank in the top 10 in scoring, rebounding and assists, and UMBC is the only team in the league with four players ranking among the league's top 20 scorers, with three averaging in double figures. The Retrievers rank 17th in the country in turnovers.
HUSKIE UPDATE: Regular-season Big East champion Connecticut (29-3, 16-0) is ranked third in the final ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll. The storied Huskies are making their 19th-straight NCAA Tournament appearance,and are 58-13 all-time in the Big Dance with five national titles and eight Final Four appearances. UConn is the No. 1 seed for the 10th time. All-Big East first team selection Renee Montgomery (13.0 ppg) leads five Huskies averaging double figures in scoring, while Big East Freshman of the Year and all-conference second team selection Tina Charles has posted 8.6 rpg. Charles was joined on the second team by teammates Charde Houston and Kalana Greene, while Kaili McLaren joined Charles on the all-freshman team.
Who's Up Next: A win would send UMBC to the second round for a matchup with the winner of the first-round game between No. 8 New Mexico and No. 9 Wisconsin-Green By on Tuesday, March 20.
Inside the Series: Today's game marks the first-ever meeting between UMBC and Connecticut. UMBC is 0-5 all-time against Big East teams with three games against Georgetown and one each against St. John's and West Virginia.
Game Notes: Today's game is UMBC's 33rd of the season, the most the Retrievers have ever played in one year. The only other time UMBC has played 30 games was 2002-03, when the Retrievers reached the finals of the Northeast Conference Tournament. The Retrievers are 5-0 at neutral sites this year after winning both games at the UTPA Battle at the Border Holiday Tournament in Edinburg, Texas Dec. 28-29, then winning three times in the America East Tournament.
Cinderella Gets Her Slipper: UMBC earned its first-ever NCAA Tournament berth with a 48-46 victory over top-seeded Hartford in the America East title game. The Retrievers had never won an America East Tournament game since joining the league in 2003-04, and made only their second-ever title game appearance, as first-yera head coach Phil Stern led UMBC to the Northeast Conference finals in 2003, its last in the league. The Retrievers are the first team in America East history to defeat the top three seeds in the conference tournament (No. 2 Stony Brook/quarterfinals, No. 3 Vermont/semifinals, No. 1 Hartford/finals) and are the lowest seed to ever win the America East conference championship. UMBC is the fourth America East team seeded 16th, and these squads are 0-3 all-time, including Maine's 1995 loss to Connecticut. Overall, America East teams are 0-2 in tournament play against the Huskies. UMBC is one of nine teams making its first NCAA Tournament appearance.
All-Conference Rohde: Senior forward Sharri Rohde was named to the America East All-Conference second team for the second year in a row, and also earned All-Defensive team accolades.
Seniors Step Up: Seniors Brittnie Hughes, Sharri Rohde and Heather Luttrell stepped up their play in the America East Tournament. Hughes averaged 12.3 ppg, 4.0 rpg and 4.0 apg, with 21 points and a career-best seven rebounds against Stony Brook, while Rohde posted 12.3 ppg, 6.3 rpg and 3.0 apg en route to an all-tournament team nod. In addition, Luttrell tallied 3.3 ppg and 4.0 rpg, with six key points in the first half of the quarterfinals game and a clutch three-pointer against Vermont.
For Starters: UMBC's 16 wins are the fourth-most in program history and the most since the 1990-91 team went 17-11. The school record for victories in a season is 20 in 1985-86.
Balanced Rohde: Senior forward Sharri Rohde is the only player in the America East to rank in the conference's top 10 in scoring, rebounding and assists. Rohde is just the third Retriever ever to amass 1,000 points, 500 rebounds and 300 assists in her career.
Seeing Double: Three Retrievers - senior forward Sharri Rohde (13.6), senior point guard Brittnie Hughes (11.4) and junior forward Amanda Robinson (10.3) - are averaging double figures in scoring. Rohde has reached double digits in 25 of 31 games this season, but had her eight-game streak snapped with eight points against Hartford. UMBC is the only team in the America East with four players ranking in the league's top 20 in scoring.
UMBC's Iron Woman: Senior forward Sharri Rohde has started all 116 games in her career, and when she was in the opening lineup on Feb. 7 at Stony Brook, she became UMBC's all-time Iron Woman, breaking the school record for career starts.
Join the Club: Senior forward Sharri Rohde is just the 10th Retriever ever to reach both the 1,000-point and 500-rebound plateau and the first since Monica Logan in 1999. She currently ranks seventh all-time with 1,218 points and 12th with 627 rebounds. She is the 15th player in UMBC history to score 1,000 points in her career and the 13th Retriever to post 500 boards.
First Pupil, Now Teacher: In the America East Tournament finals, the Retrievers defeated a Hartford team coached by former University of Connecticut start Jennifer Rizzotti. UMBC will now face Rizzotti's head coach, Geno Auriemma.