Lamb, Vermont deny UMBC repeat, win America East title game
BURLINGTON, Vt. (AP) — Vermont learned from its loss last year on its home floor to Maryland-Baltimore County in the America East Tournament title game — a result that paved the way for an even bigger win by UMBC.
Anthony Lamb scored 28 points, and Vermont beat UMBC 66-49 on Saturday to win the America East championship and earn an NCAA Tournament bid.
It was the seventh conference title overall and second in three years for the Catamounts (27-6), who got their revenge on the anniversary of 16th-seeded UMBC’s shocking upset of top-seeded Virginia in last year’s NCAA Tournament.
“I’m impressed how well we grew over the season and today was a full team effort,” Vermont coach John Becker said. “These games are surreal because of the crowd and noise. We were tougher this year because of that game. We had a lot of young guys, so credit our new leadership.”
Lamb, the America East player of the year, was named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player. He went 8 for 16 from the field and had nine rebounds, and he led a strong defensive effort from the Catamounts, who held the Retrievers to 34-percent shooting.
Stef Smith added 17 points for Vermont and Ben Shungu scored nine, all in the second half. K.J. Jackson led UMBC (21-13) with 15 points, and Arkel Lamar had eight points and 11 rebounds.
Lamb hit back-to-back 3-pointers early in the second half to start an 11-0 run that put Vermont ahead 39-22.
“The championship game a lot of times comes down to the best player playing like that,” Becker said. “I never wanted to put any extra pressure on Anthony, but the reality today is that our best player was a big reason we won.”
Both teams got off to slow starts. UMBC missed its first six field-goal attempts and hit only five of its first 16, while Vermont was 7 for 21, missing its first six 3-point attempts. Lamb scored 12 of Vermont’s first 18 points and had 19 by halftime, when the Catamounts led 28-20.
“This year the script was flipped after a year ago,” UMBC coach Ryan Odom said. “Hats off to Vermont today. Our offense today left a lot to be desired — give them credit for a lot of that. Lamb had a dynamite game. He’s tremendous.”
UMBC: The Retrievers handed Vermont its only two regular-season losses in America East play, including a 74-63 win in Burlington on Jan. 23. Lamb didn’t play in that game.
Vermont: Recent struggles against UMBC aside, the Catamounts are comfortable atop the America East. They were the top seed in the conference tournament and reached their fourth straight title game and 13th overall. Vermont has seven titles, all since 2003.
The Catamounts were 1 for 7 from 3-point range in the first half but heated up after halftime, making four of their first six from beyond the arc. ... Vermont shot 41 percent from the floor and outrebounded UMBC 38-27.
UMBC awaits a possible bid in the NIT or another postseason tournament.
Vermont will learn its NCAA Tournament seeding and destination on Sunday evening.