Courtesy Vermont Sports Information
BURLINGTON –– Top-seeded Vermont captured its seventh conference title after taking down defending champion and No. 3 seed UMBC 66-49 in the 2019 America East Championship Game on Saturday. The Catamounts have earned the league’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
“Just an incredible feeling to be conference champions and knowing that we’re going to the NCAA Tournament,” Cioffi Men’s Basketball Head Coach John Becker said. “It was really an incredible journey that this group has been on. These games are surreal, the crowd is so loud and you can’t hear anything on the court. It was a full team effort and an incredible accomplishment.”
HOW IT HAPPENED
After a slow start on both sides, the Catamounts built a slight 9-4 lead six-and-a-half minutes into the title bout.
The Retrievers whittled the margin back to 9-7 but Anthony Lamb netted five points as a part of a 7-0 run for the top overall seed.
Later in the half, Vermont padded its advantage to 23-14 with three minutes to play, then UMBC hit back-to-back treys. Lamb made a pair of free throws in the final seconds as the Cats went into the locker room up 28-20 – their first halftime lead against the Retrievers in the last four meetings.
The Catamounts were held scoreless in the opening three minutes of the second half, but built a double-digit lead by the 16-minute media timeout after Lamb canned two NBA-range three-pointers. Stef Smith capped off the run with a slick crossover then banked a layup off the glass.
The Green and Gold kept their comfortable lead for the rest of the contest and stretched the margin to as large as 63-43 with two minutes to play.
INSIDE THE BOX SCORE
Lamb was named the Reggie Lewis Most Outstanding Player (MOP) for the second time in his career. The MOP had a monster game with a game-high 28 points and nine rebounds. The junior shot 8-of-16 from the floor, 9-of-12 from the line, and canned three triples.
Smith reached double figures with 17 points and pulled down eight boards.
Ben Shungu added nine points, four rebounds, and two assists.
Ernie Duncan notched eight points – all in the second half.
The All-Championship Team was comprised of Lamb and Smith, K.J. Jackson and Joe Sherburne from UMBC, and J.R. Lynch from Hartford.
The seventh tournament crown ties Northeastern for the most in the history of the America East Conference and UVM has won two of the last three conference titles.
With the victory, the Cats Win, Community Wins campaign and Vermont Mutual Insurance Group will donate $100 to Make-A-Wish Vermont; bringing this year’s total to 46 wins and $4,600.
Vermont will await the NCAA Selection Show on Sunday (March 17) to find out its opponent and bracket region. The show will be televised on CBS and streamed on March Madness Live at 6 p.m. Visit UVMathletics.com for game and ticket information.