After a good weekend of play in the quarterfinals of the America East Conference basketball tournament, four teams have moved on to the semi-finals that will be played tonight. Three of the four winners from last Saturday were the home team which continues to make the point about how hard it is to win on the road in this league. Counting Saturday’s results, the overall record for road teams in this league is now 24-52. On Saturday, the Binghamton Bearcats were the only road warriors that came away with a victory. The two semi-final matchups are, Binghamton at Vermont and New Hampshire at UMass Lowell. Let’s take a look at what could be in store for tonight.
The Binghamton Bearcats (13-17) had several obstacles to get past and get the win on Saturday vs UMBC. The biggest one was if the game was going to be played at all or if it needed to be moved ahead a day. That’s because a power outage that lasted six hours put the game in harm’s way. What was originally set for a 1 PM tipoff became a 7 PM tipoff. The good news was that both teams handled the delay very well, and were ready when the new start time was announced. This game featured nine ties and eight lead changes with the Bearcats starting five being the differences in the outcome. They were led by Jacob Falko’s 16 points and four of the five members of the starting five finished in double-figures. Falko was the iron man as he played all 40 minutes and was a rebound shy of a double-double. On defense, the Bearcats held the Retrievers to 41% shooting from the field and 31% from 3-point range.
They will need a repeat performance if they are to get past the America East regular season champs the Vermont Catamounts (21-10). Vermont took care of business at home with an 84-57 win over NJIT. They did it without much from the conference Player of the Year Finn Sullivan who had an off-night scoring with only two points. He was 0-of-6 from the field and 0-of-2 from three-point land. But what makes the Catamounts so good is what one player can’t do someone else will do. Vermont got a game-high from Dylan Penn of 23 points (10-of-14 from the field, 1-of-2 from deep, 2-of-2 from the FT). Off the bench, Aaron Deloney chipped in with 16. They shot 51% from the field (32-63), 46% from three’s (11-24), and 90% from the foul line (9-10). The two regular season games saw the Catamounts win both. On January 25th, Vermont was an 80-55 winner at Binghamton. Then on February 22nd, the Catamounts were winners again by an 81-70 count. Winning at Patrick Gym is never easy for the road team. Then again, beating a team three times in the same year is also never easy.
The other semi-final has the UNH Wildcats (15-14) heading to Costello Athletic Center to face the UMass Lowell River Hawks (25-7). These two teams split during the regular season. The Wildcats were winners back on January 28th by a 69-65 score. The Wildcats erased a seven-point halftime deficit to win by four. They shot 44% (14-32 from the field ), 44% (4-9 from 3-point land ), and 87% (7-8 from FT) in the second half. They got double-doubles from Clarence Daniels (22 points, 13 rebounds) and from Kyree Brown (12 points, 10 assists). The rematch on February 25th was a very different story. The River Hawks jumped out to a 15-point halftime lead at 40-25 and never looked back winning by a 92-55 score. The River Hawks shot a blistering 58% from the field 38-65. They scored 58 points in the paint, 37 points off the bench, and 23 points off of 17 UNH turnovers. Abdoul Karim Coulibaly had a double-double of 16 points and 12 rebounds to lead the way. Coulibaly leads this team in rebounding games with 17, has led the team in scoring eight times, and is tied with Max Brooks with eight double-doubles this season.
This is a deep team that comes into the game tonight having won eight of nine and is 16-0 at home this year. The Wildcats’ best players will need to step up for UNH to have a chance. Daniels, who recorded a double-double vs Bryant on Saturday of 22 points and 14 rebounds, will need to be big vs Lowell. They will need more from Nick Johnson than they got vs Bryant (2 points, 1-of-5 from the field, 0-of-3 from deep), and 0-of-2 from the foul line) in 30 minutes to be successful.
The two winners moved on to Saturday’s championship game which will be played at the higher seed home court. It should be a fun night of hoops in the America East Conference.
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