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Albany (23-10) at Vermont (21-10)



Saturday, March 16, 11:30 a.m. (et)

The Sports Network

By Gregg Xenakes, Associate College Basketball Editor

FACTS & STATS: Site: Patrick Gym (3,228) -- Burlington, Vermont. Television: ESPN2. Home Record: Albany 12-4, Vermont 10-4. Away Record: Albany 10-5, Vermont 9-6. Neutral Record: Albany 1-1, Vermont 2-0. Conference Record: Albany 9-7, Vermont 11-5. Series Record: Vermont leads, 25-8.

GAME NOTES: The Vermont Catamounts aim for a repeat as American East Conference Tournament Champions on Saturday morning as they clash with the Albany Great Danes in the 34th annual event played at Patrick Gym.

Vermont, which defeated Stony Brook last year by a score of 51-43, has a total of five titles stemming from this event, although the squad also has a couple of defeats in the championship round versus this same Albany squad back in 2006 and 2007.

The second-seeded Catamounts began this tourney by taking down New Hampshire a week ago in a 61-42 final at SEFCU Arena and then followed it up the next day with an 85-72 triumph over UMBC in the semifinals in order to advance to the title game.

As for the fourth-seeded Great Danes, the games last weekend took place in their home building, yet the squad still struggled with a 50-49 victory versus Maine in the quarterfinals on Saturday and then a 61-59 decision against Stony Brook the following night.

Albany, which has a mark of 3-1 all-time against the Catamounts in the postseason, has not been back to the championship game since taking down Vermont in a 60-59 thriller six years ago.

Vermont took both meetings during the regular season against the Great Danes, first posting a 70-45 win in Burlington just days into the new calendar year and then delivering a 50-43 victory three weeks later in New York. With the sweep the Catamounts now own a 25-8 advantage all-time in the series.

Scoring 64.8 ppg this season, the Danes are led on offense by Mike Black with his 15.0 ppg. Black accounts for 82 assists as well which is second-best on the unit behind only Peter Hooley (7.8 ppg) who has delivered 93 dishes even though he has started just 11 of the 31 games in which he has appeared. Jacob Iati accounts for another 12.2 ppg, primarily based on his 87-of-215 (.405) shooting behind the 3-point line, along with his 84.3 percent accuracy at the charity stripe. Because of players like Iati, Albany managed to outscore the opposition by a collective 176 points at the free-throw line through 33 contests.

The Catamounts do a fine job in limiting the production of opponents, having held teams to just 58.8 ppg this season on 40.2 percent shooting from the floor. From an offensive standpoint, Vermont focuses heavily on a seven-man rotation that features Clancy Rugg who leads the program with 11.4 ppg, even through he has started slightly more than half the team's 31 contests in 2012-13. Rugg, a regular at the free-throw line where he has made good on 71.4 percent, is also first on the glass with 5.7 rpg as the team beats opponents in rebounding (+4.1 rpg). Luke Apfeld is responsible for another 10.8 ppg, followed by Sandro Carissimo with 9.9 ppg for a group that has outscored the competition by a combined 179 points at the free-throw line.

Having scored more than one-fourth of their points this season at the charity stripe, the Catamounts generally try to draw an advantage in the department. If that's the case on Saturday, expect to see the Catamounts heading back to the NCAA Tournament.

Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Vermont 67, Albany 62

03/16 10:37:14 ET