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No. 4 Florida State wears down No. 13 Vermont

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Florida State wore down No. 13 seed Vermont in the second half as the No. 4 seed Seminoles moved on with a 76-69 win on Thursday in a West Region game in Hartford.

The Seminoles (28-7) trailed by nine in the first half before rallying to tie it at halftime. Playing without senior forward Phil Cofer (foot in a walking boot), Florida State took some time to adjust on both ends of the floor. In the second half, the Seminoles made their big push behind strong offensive outings from Mfiondu Kabengale (21 points, nine rebounds) and Terence Mann (19 points). Kabengale and Mann were tough to stop on the interior as both did a nice job of finishing consistently around the rim.

Florida State didn’t have a great game shooting the ball (21-for-55 for 38 percent) on Thursday. To offset the inconsistent shooting, the Seminoles did an effective job of limiting turnovers (seven for the game) and knocking down free throws (31-for-37) to close out the game as Florida State scored 24 of its 49 second-half points from the free-throw line.

Vermont (27-7) stayed in the game thanks to its hot three-point shooting (16-for-32 for 50 percent) but they struggled to get any offense inside of the arc. Florida State’s superior length and athleticism proved to be tough on the Catamounts over the course of a full game as Vermont only had seven field goals that weren’t three-pointers.

Anthony Lamb (16 points) led four Catamount scorers in double-figures as Stef Smith (15 points), Ernie Duncan (15 points) and Ben Shungu (15 points) also contributed on the offensive end. Lamb, the America East Player of the Year, was limited to a 4-for-13 shooting day as he couldn’t get going on offense until late in the game.

This wasn’t the prettiest win for Florida State. But the Seminoles withstood a hot-shooting opponent during a game in which they weren’t playing their best on offense. That’s a very good sign for Florida State going forward, because if they figure things out on offense, then they’re looking like a very dangerous No. 4 seed. The health of Cofer will also be something to monitor for the next round as redshirt freshman Raiquan Gray made his second career start in his place.

Florida State moves on to face the winner of No. 5 seed Marquette and No. 12 seed Murray State on Saturday in Hartford.

VIDEO: UNH’s Daniel Dion beats the horn, UMass-Lowell

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With the top two teams in America East (Stony Brook and Albany) scheduled to meet Friday night, the winner of Thursday’s contest between New Hampshire and UMass-Lowell could be within a game of first place heading into the weekend. The two teams produced an entertaining game in Lowell, Massachusetts, and the winner wasn’t decided until the game’s final shot.

Luckily for New Hampshire junior guard Daniel Dion had the ball in his hands, catching an inbounds pass and hitting a left-handed three-pointer as time expired to give the Wildcats a 78-76 win. Video of the shot, which was a tough one with Dion’s momentum taking him away from the basket, can be seen in the embedded tweet above.

Dion, who scored seven points off the bench, made just one of his four three-point attempts on the night. Good timing.

Purvis leads No. 25 UConn over UMass-Lowell 88-79

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HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) Rodney Purvis scored 28 points and No. 25 UConn beat UMass-Lowell 88-79 on Sunday.

The Huskies (7-3), who were playing without injured 7-foot center Amida Brimah, relied on their guards in the victory.

Daniel Hamilton had 12 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists. Sterling Gibbs scored 15 points and Omar Calhoun had 14.

The Huskies made 64 percent of their shots from the floor, while Lowell shot 50 percent.

Jahad Thomas led UMass-Lowell (4-7) with 19 points and Josh Gantz had 18. Matt Harris and Isaac White each scored 11.

The Huskies led by as many as 14 points in the second half, but had a tough time.

A 3-pointer by D.J. Mlachnik closed the gap to 81-75 with under 2 minutes left, but UConn hit seven of its eight foul shots down the stretch to hold off the River Hawks.

UConn has won consecutive games for the first time since Nov. 25. UMass-Lowell has lost five of its last six games.

The Huskies led by six points at halftime and just 62-55 before a 7-0 run led mostly by Purvis’ jumper and 3-pointer on consecutive possessions.

Brimah suffered a testicular contusion last week, and UConn clearly missed his defensive presence early on. The River Hawks’ Matt Harris hit two early 3-pointers, and the team used a 7-0 run to take a 20-13 lead and force UConn coach Kevin Ollie to take a timeout.

The Huskies went to a full-court press and took the lead back 26-25 when Hamilton found Phil Nolan under the basket for a layup.

UConn hit 67 percent of its shots in the first half yet had a 43-37 lead at halftime.

A 3-pointer from Purvis gave UConn its first double-digit lead at 51-41 early in the second half, but Ryan Jones responded with a 3-pointer for the River Hawks.

UConn outrebounded UMass-Lowell 30-18. The River Hawks have only three players taller than 6-foot-4 and none taller than 6-foot-8.

UMass-Lowell, which started the season 3-2, has lost five of its six games in December. The lone win came Dec. 6 over a Boston College team that was depleted by food poisoning. Lowell has eight first-year players on its roster.

TIP INS

UMass-Lowell: The River Hawks have lost two straight road games to teams from Connecticut, including an 83-79 loss Friday to Central Connecticut – UConn’s next opponent.

UConn: Brimah had played in a team-high 84 consecutive games dating back to his freshman season and had started 44 straight. The team says his injury is not serious and his absence was precautionary. Daniel Hamilton leads the team in consecutive games with 45.

UP NEXT

UMass-Lowell: The River Hawks, who had seven of eight road games this month, will head to Piscataway, New Jersey, to face Rutgers on Dec. 28.

UConn: The Huskies host Central Connecticut on Wednesday before taking on the Texas Longhorns on Dec. 29 in Austin, Texas.

VIDEO: America East’s #OurHouseRules trick shot campaign

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With the start of college basketball’s regular season just over a week away, the America East Conference began a special campaign via social media. The #OurHouseRules campaign features each of the nine member schools, with a player (or players, in one instance thus far) from each team making a shot they’d use in a game of HORSE.

The schools are doing this in alphabetical order, so defending tournament champion Albany was first with senior guard Peter Hooley getting things going. Hooley, whose three-pointer in the final seconds of the America East title game sent the Great Danes to the NCAA tournament, successfully drop-kicked a shot in from just beyond half court.

Up next was Binghamton’s J.C. Show, who hit a shot from half court while sitting on the floor.

Hartford’s Taylor Dyson made his shot from the Chase Family Arena stands, with Maine’s Aaron Calixte and Isaac Vann combining on an alley-oop with Calixte making the pass.

UMBC, UMass-Lowell, New Hampshire, Stony Brook and Vermont are the five teams who have yet to submit their shots, with UMBC now on the clock to do so. This is a pretty cool idea, especially when it comes to getting the fan bases excited for the start of the season. Who doesn’t like a good trick shot?

h/t Fox Sports

Former starter returning to America East contender Stony Brook after year in junior college

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Stony Brook welcomed back a former key piece as junior college transfer Ahmad Walker is returning to the Seawolves.

After starting 31 of 34 games as a redshirt freshman for Stony Brook during the 2013-14 season, Walker left the program last summer and played his sophomore season at Barton Community College.

The 6-foot-4 Walker led Barton in points (20.6), rebounds (7.7) and assists (5.5) and joins an already deep Stony Brook team that returns most of its pieces from last season’s America East title game appearance.

In his only season at Stony Brook, Walker averaged 7 points, 5.3 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game and was an America East all-rookie team selection.

The Seawolves already return two-time America East Player of the Year in forward Jameel Warney and now they’ll have to see if Walker fits back into the starting lineup, or becomes part of a deep bench. With the return of Warney, experienced guard Carson Puriefoy and forward Rayshaun McGrew, Stony Brook was already in position to be on the of the favorites in the America East next season and the return of a proven player like Walker only helps in that projection.

It was never specified why Walker left the program the first time around, but he’ll have two seasons of eligibility remaining after his season in the junior college ranks.

Albany’s Peter Hooley to give commencement speech at school’s graduation in May

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One of the most powerful stories of the 2014-15 season was that of Albany guard Peter Hooley, whose shot with less than a second remaining gave the Great Danes a win over Stony Brook in the America East title game. Hooley’s heroics came less than two months after the passing of his mother from a lengthy bout with colon cancer, and just over a month after he’d returned to the program.

Hooley’s story serves as inspiration for many, and as a result the school has selected him to give the undergraduate commencement speech at graduation next month.

“It’s an honor for me to speak on behalf of our graduating class,” Hooley said in the release. “I’m looking forward to congratulating everyone on our last four years together, as well as wishing the Class of 2015 the best going forward.”

This is the latest honor bestowed upon Hooley, who also received the SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Student Excellence in March and the school president’s Outstanding Senior Award. While a number of schools bring in public figures for commencement speeches, Albany’s move has the potential to be even more meaningful as the graduates will see one of their own at the podium.