Candon Rusin came off the bench to score a team-high 18 points, all from long range, to lead four Catamounts in double figures as No. 2-seeded Vermont posted an 85-72 victory over No. 6 UMBC in the America East Semifinals at SEFCU Arena on the campus of the University at Albany.
Vermont improves to 21-10 overall and advances to the America East Championship game for the eighth time in 12 years and ninth time overall. UMBC ends its season at 8-23 overall.
The Retrievers were hot from beyond the arc in the first 20 minutes. UMBC made eight 3-pointers accounting for half their field goals in the first half.
The Retrievers built a 23-15 lead with 10:03 remaining in the stanza. The Catamounts answered with a 12-3 run to erase the eight-point deficit and pulled ahead 27-26 with 7:04 remaining in the half. But UMBC closed the half with three consecutive 3-pointers from three different Retrievers to take a 40-37 lead into the break.
UMBC's lead grew to eight again in the first five minutes of the second half as a Brian Neller 3-pointer gave the Retrievers a 50-42 advantage at the 15:46 mark.
Vermont responded with a 10-0 run, fueled by a four-point play from Candon Rusin as he was fouled on a 3-point shot and a traditional three-point play conversion from Luke Apfeld, to pull out in front, 52-50, with 14:11 showing on the clock.
Joey Getz made a pair of free throws to bring UMBC back even with the Catamounts, 52-52, at the 11:40 mark, however the Retrievers would not regain the lead the rest of the way.
Vermont pushed its lead to five on a layup by Ethan O'Day with 8:58 remaining, but another Neller 3-pointer knotted the game up 62-62 with 7:48 left. From that point on, the Catamounts out scored the Retrievers 23-10 to close out the game and secure the victory.
Luke Apfeld and Ethan O'Day added 16 points and five rebounds each for the Catamounts and Clancy Rugg chipped in 11 points and five rebounds. Rugg, an America East All-Conference Second Team performer, was perfect on the night, going 2-for-2 from the field and 7-for-7 from the foul line. Brian Voelkel, an America East All-Conference First Team and All-Defensive Team selection added eight points, five rebounds and seven assists.
Ryan Cook paced the Retrievers with 20 points, 16 coming in the first half, and dished out five assists. Chase Plummer and Joey Getz added 13 points each and Neller finished the game with 11 points.
UMBC finished the game shooting 54.5 percent from 3-point range behind a 12-for-22 effort from beyond the arc. The Catamounts also shot 50 percent from 3-point range (7-for-14), but were able to hold the Retrievers to 31.8 percent shooting from the floor in the second half.
The second-seeded Catamounts will face either No. 1 Stony Brook or No. 4 Albany in the America East Championship Game that is slated for Saturday (March 16) at the highest remaining seed. The game is set for 11:30 a.m. and will be broadcast on ESPN2.
Courtesy: Vermont Athletics
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