America East Semifinals Roundup
by Philip Kasiecki
The America East semifinals on Sunday were well worth the price of admission, as both games came down to the final seconds.
In the first game, Boston University advanced to the finals with a victory over Hartford on a buzzer-beating three-point shot by Stijn Dhondt. Kevin Fitzgerald threw a long pass to Dhondt, who caught it at the three-point line and made the shot. The officials reviewed it while the Terriers headed for the locker room, but upheld the shot. The Hawks led for the balance of the game behind a solid game from Junior Amos and balanced complements. The Hawks clearly suffered at the offensive end in the second half, as Ryan Stys was injured at the end of the first half and did not play in the second half.
The Terriers will get to host the America East championship game, as Maine knocked off top seed Vermont in overtime in the second game. The game was an offensive struggle in the first half, as the teams combined to shoot nearly 35 percent from the field. Errick Greene, the conference’s second-leading scorer in the regular season, struggled for Maine, but scoring champ and Player of the Year T.J. Sorrentine did not have his best game, either. Greene had 6 points and 10 rebounds on 2-11 shooting, while Sorrentine had 12 points on 4-21 shooting. In the extra session, Maine made several early shots before holding on at the end. One thing Vermont did not do very well is establish its post players. Trevor Gaines had 20 points and 12 rebounds, but the Catamounts at times went for jump shots early in the possession instead of trying to get it inside. Vermont had a 30-26 edge on points in the paint and 13 second-chance points.
Next Saturday’s championship game appears to be a mismatch. Maine will come in as the road team and with a sub-.500 record, and have not looked impressive all season long including the first two tournament games. Maine is sixth in the conference in scoring and Boston University leads in scoring and field goal percentage defense. The two teams are also very different in terms of ball control: the Terriers are third in the conference in turnover margin, the Black Bears are last in that category with nearly five more turnovers than assists per game. The Terriers won both regular season meetings between the teams as well.
The Terriers will need to neutralize Maine big man Justin Rowe, who struggled against Vermont with several missed shots in close. The Terriers are a deeper team, though not by enough to make a big difference. For the Black Bears to win, they must shoot the ball better than they have thus far in the tournament, and taking care of the ball is a must. They are better equipped to run than the Terriers, but neither team is capable of running anyone off the court, so the tempo is not likely to make a difference. Errick Greene can’t have the kind of games he’s had thus far in the tournament, and Darrick Jackson needs to play well for the Black Bears to have a chance. He made some big shots against Vermont in the semifinal game.
Prediction: Look for the Terriers to take this one. They’re at home and have played Maine better all season long, and especially in the conference tournament thus far. The Terriers are playing like the better team and have won when they have needed to, making them the favorites for their first NCAA Tournament bid since 1997.