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Conference tournament recap: Vermont, UMBC set for finals rematch and more

Plus updates from the Sun Belt and MEAC.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-Second Round-Kansas State vs UMBC Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

Two overtimes later…and we have updates from the MEAC, Sun Belt and American East.

America East

UMBC, Vermont, take two. UMBC has the upper hand, as for their buzzer beater last year in the conference tournament, but we got ourselves a highly touted rematch in Burlington. Who will storm the court this time? No. 3 UMBC upset No. 2 Hartford in not one, but two overtimes in Baltimore today. After a gritty first half defensive effort from UMBC, the Retrievers barely held off a furious 19-point comeback from the Hawks. UMBC outrebounded Hartford 48-32 and were led in points by K.J. Jackson, who finished the game with 21 points. In the second overtime period, it was Jackson’s sunken free throws (8-10 overall) that made the difference for UMBC.

Vermont, on the other hand, steamrolled Binghamton 84-51 in part due to 56 percent shooting from behind the three-point line. Stef Smith hit eight threes to hit a career high of 28 points to pave the way for the Catamounts. Judging from the fact that Smith had more points that Binghampton at half, it’s safe to say Vermont didn’t have much trouble today.

The Catamounts have now won five straight, and only have two losses at home, one being to UMBC. Last postseason, UMBC prevailed due to Jairus Lyles, leaving a sour taste in the mouth of John Becker, who admitted to questioning the outcome of the game for month.

”Your season is validated, or not validated, based on one game,” Becker told Pete Thamel of Yahoo Sports earlier this week.

They will clash at 11 AM ET on Saturday, and what a validation that will be for the winner.

- Ellie Lieberman

MEAC

Oh, the good ‘ole MEAC, where all teams have at least 12 losses, and things, for at least today, go according to plan. South Carolina State and Coppin State beat Maryland-Eastern Shore and Morgan State respectively. Coppin State overcame an eight-point deficit at halftime to pull out a victory thanks to Dejuan Clayton’s 23 points, over half which came from the line. Oh, and Justin Steers had a nice dunk as well. South Carolina State was led by fiery guard, Janai Raynor-Powell in scoring. Both teams will look to take down favorites, Norfolk State and North Carolina A&T in their next matchups.

- Ellie Lieberman

Sun Belt

No. 8 South Alabama Jaguars 75, No. 9 Arkansas State Red Wolves 67

The Red Wolves built a lead in the first half thanks to 13 points from Ty Cockfield, but the Jaguars came storming back after the break, utilizing a 13-4 run to take the lead and eventually stretched it out to double digits.

Junior forward Josh Ajayi took control in the second half and finished with 22 points, nine rebounds and four assists. He was 8-for-10 from the free-throw line. Kory Holden also added 20 points and was 5-of-10 from 3-point range, while Trhae Mitchell had a double-double with 13 points and 13 rebounds. Cockfield ended with 21 points in the loss.

The Jaguars shot 47 percent from three while the Red Wolves were just 24 percent. Arkansas State finishes the season with a record of 13-19.

No. 7 ULM Warhawks 89, Appalachian State 80

The Warhawks jumped out to a 14-2 lead and controlled the first 25 minutes of the game. But the Mountaineers wouldn’t go down without a fight as Justin Forrest and Ronshad Shabazz keyed a rally midway through the second half. App State even claimed a brief lead thanks to a couple three-pointers by Mike Bibby Jr., but a 14-1 run by the Warhawks put them firmly back in control.

Senior forward Travis Munnings was key for ULM as he finished with 21 points and 12 rebounds. Guard Daishon Smith had an off shooting night, but still managed to finish with 16 points despite making just 2 of 9 from 3-point range. Michael Ertel and JD Williams added 16 points each as well for the Warhawks, while Forrest led all scorers with 32 points.

ULM had 19 assists in the game, with Smith collecting nine on his own. Appalachian State finishes the season with a record of 11-21.

- Chris Hillyard