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Hartford upsets Maine and Albany Cruises by UMBC to head to America East Final

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VESTAL, N.Y. – Senior Cherelle Moore dominated the entire 40 minutes against Maine, closing out the America East semifinal match-up against the top seeded Maine Black Bears with 23 points and 10 rebounds for her second double double in the last three games. Moore and the Hawks defeated the Black Bears by a 65-54 margin and will advance to the America East Championship game for the second time in the last three years and the ninth time overall.

Moore's 23 points led all players in the game as she finished 11-of-16 from the field for a 69 percent effort. Added to that, her 10 rebounds completes her sixth double double of the season and the ninth of her career. Joining Moore in leading the Hawks was classmate Amber Bepko and sophomore Morgan Lumb who finished with 14 and 11 points, respectively.

As a team, Hartford finished the game shooting a season-high 54.5 percent overall on 24-of-44, including making 4-of-11 three point attempts (36.4 percent). Included in the overall shooting efforts was a season-best of 57.7 percent in the first half as the Hawks finished 15-of-26 over the first 20 minutes. Hartford also finished 13-of-16 at the free throw line, including a 5-of-6 effort in the final 28 seconds from Lumb as she secured the victory from the line.

Defensively, the Hawks held the second best shooting team in the league to 30.6 percent (22-of-72) for the game, 13 percentage points below their season average. Hartford's defense also held the Black Bears leading scorer and First Team All-League honoree Liz Wood scoreless as she finished 0-of-9 for the game after averaging over 14 points for the game.

Moore's 10 rebounds led Hartford in rebounding as she was joined by Lumb who finished with a career-high nine boards, one shy of her first career double double. Also setting a career-best against the Black Bears was junior Christie Michals who dished out a team-high six assists, joined by sophomore point guard Deanna Mayza who finished with five assists and is now three shy of tying Maureen DiJulia ('99) for the single season school record in assists.

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VESTAL, N.Y. – Holding its opponent to nine points in the first half, the 2-seed UAlbany women’s basketball team defeated 6-seed UMBC 66-37 to advance to the America East title game, which will be played at SEFCU Arena on Friday, March 13th at 4:30 p.m.

UAlbany (23-8)’s defensive performance in the first half against UMBC (12-17) was the second-lowest first half total in the last 10 years in the America East Tournament; Hartford held Vermont to eight points in a 2012 game. As a team, UAlbany, which led wire-to-wire, outrebounded UMBC 50-30

UAlbany allowed 70 points in the first two rounds, the America East Tournament record in back-to-back games.

It’s March Madness… defense wins games this time of the year,” said UAlbany coach Katie Abrahamson-Henderson. “They scored nine points in the first half. It’s all seemed to finally come together this time of year for us. It is especially hard to work on in one day because nobody else presses and traps but I’m really proud of how my players handled the pressure and nerves this weekend.”

UAlbany will host the America East title game for being the highest seed remaining in the tournament, with 1-seed Maine falling in the semifinals. UAlbany will take on 5-seed Hartford in search of its 4th-consecutive America East title.

In addition, the Great Danes have won their last 10 America East Tournament games, the second-longest streak in league history. Maine won 14-straight from 1995-99.

Shereesha Richards earned her 12th double-double of the year, going 7-of-11 from the field for 20 points and 15 rebounds. Sarah Royals finished with 15 points and five assists while Zakiya Saunders concluded with eight points, eight boards, five assists and three steals.

“Our offense only comes because of our defense,” said Royals. “I think everyone could tell with the effort we put in how hard we played on defense this weekend.”

For UMBC, Liz McNaughton scored 11 points to lead the team. Capree Garner, who averaged almost 17 points a contest coming into Sunday, scored five points.

On the first play of the game, Margarita Rosario hit a three from the near corner to put UAlbany on the board. The defense held down UMBC on the next several possessions, as Rosario added another trey from the other corner. UAlbany kept forcing outside shots as Tiana-Jo Carter blocked two shots and made a steal to hold on defense.

The defense kept going, not allowing any UMBC points for the first 8:47. UAlbany built a 13-0 lead to start.

The Great Danes kept using the full court press and pushed UMBC out to the perimeter to force shots. The other way, UAlbany attacked in transition and with jumpers. A pair of 5-0 runs made the score 23-4 UAlbany with 13 minutes gone.

After an Amanda Hagaman layup, UAlbany got chances going into the paint and drawing UMBC fouls. UAlbany put together an 8-0 run, including six made free throws, four of them from Richards, to lead 31-6.

UAlbany earned one last streak in the first half as the full court press continued to force turnovers. Baskets from Saunders, Richards and Imani Tate in order led UAlbany to a 37-9 halftime advantage. UAlbany held UMBC to 16% shooting in the first half.

Royals got the second half started with a steal, score and free throw off the foul. Each side exchanged points, with a couple of Richards field goals making it 46-13 with 16:39 remaining.

UMBC employed the half court press and started to force turnovers. A couple of three-pointers and a pair of free throws gave UMBC eight points in a row to pull within 25 at 46-21 with 14:13 left.

UAlbany kept going inside to Richards while UMBC went into the paint with its guards. With 10:26 left, UAlbany led 52-27.

After a two minute scoring lull, UAlbany got free underneath the basket. Royals began a run with a jumper, contributing two free throws and a transition layup to put together a 10-0 run, making the score UAlbany 62, UMBC 27 with 6:13 remaining.

Liz McNaughton hit a couple of late threes for UMBC, but UAlbany held its strong lead to earn the 66-37 victory.

(Courtesy: Hartford and Albany Athletics)