BURLINGTON, Vt. (AP)Emma Utterback scored 18 points and Vermont survived a wild finish to beat Albany 38-36 Friday night America East Conference championship game and advancing to its first NCAA Tournament since 2010.
Vermont led 30-15 with a minute left in the third quarter but Albany, which had 17 points through three quarters, scored 19 in the fourth and was given every chance to win, although a final long heave at the basket wasn’t close.
The Catamounts managed to run their winning streak to 17 despite going 2 of 12 from the field, 4 of 12 from the foul line and committing eight turnovers in the last 10 minutes.
No team had scored less than 45 points in an AEC title game.
Vermont (25-6), headed to its seventh NCAA Tournament, was 2 of 16 from 3-point range and shot 23% with 15 turnovers but had a 53-36 rebounding advantage, plus-10 on the offensive end. Until the fourth quarter meltdown the Catamounts were 6 of 7 from the line.
Kayla Cooper had 12 points and Helene Haegerstrand added 10 for the defending tournament champion Great Danes (22-11). Albany shot just 25% with eight of the 14 field goals coming in the fourth quarter.
Vermont seemed to be in control when Utterback made a free throw with 44.2 seconds left for a 35-31 lead and teammate Anna Olson grabbed the rebound – her career-high 16th – that led to Catherine Gilwee making 1 of 2 free throws.
The Catamounts made just one of their next four free throws and Haegerstrand drained a 3-pointer with 9.1 seconds to go to put the Great Danes within 37-36.
In a desperation inbounds, Vermont guard Bella Vito went over the top to Delaney Richason, who was intentionally fouled. Richason made 1 of 2 from the line and on the ensuing possession Gilwee missed two free throws, leaving the door open for Albany.
The top two defensive teams and conference co-championships who split during the regular season, ended the first quarter tied at 4. Albany went 2 for 14 and Vermont was 2 for 15.
Utterback scored 11 points in a 13-0 run, giving her 13 points at halftime, and the Catamounts a 17-10 lead. At the break, Albany was shooting 16% and Vermont 22%.
The Catamounts were only 4 of 13 in the third quarter with their first two 3-pointers and stretched the lead to 30-17. Albany was 6 of 39 going into the fourth quarter.
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