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COLLEGE BASKETBALL | UMASS LOWELL 79, UMBC 77

Connor Withers leads UMass Lowell men past top-seeded UMBC, into America East championship

Connor Withers tied an America East tournament record with nine 3-pointers in his team's upset on Saturday.
Connor Withers tied an America East tournament record with nine 3-pointers in his team's upset on Saturday.Jay LaPrete/Associated Press

BALTIMORE — Connor Withers scored a career-high 28 points and Obadiah Noel added 22 points as UMass Lowell narrowly defeated top-seeded Maryland-Baltimore County, 79-77, and advanced to the America East Conference championship game on Saturday.

Seeded sixth, UML’s three wins in this year’s tournament — over No. 7 Stony Brook, No. 3 New Hampshire, and now the Retrievers — are the first-ever at the Division 1 level for the River Hawks (11-11), who moved up from Division 2 for the 2013-14 season. They’ll face fourth-seeded Hartford, which beat No. 2 Vermont, 71-65, in the other semifinal, next Saturday with the winner earning their school’s first-ever NCAA tournament bid.

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Withers hit 9 of 13 3-pointers in the game, and made 1 of 2 free throws with 18 seconds left. Max Brooks had two blocks on the final possession to seal it.

Down 40-28 at halftime, UML trailed by as many as 16 before coming back. A Kalil Thomas 3-pointer tied the game at 69 with 3:43 to go. Another from Withers retied it at 76 with 1:28 left, with the rest of Lowell’s points coming from the free-throw line.

Thomas finished with 10 points.

R.J. Eytle-Rock had 18 points and six rebounds for the Retrievers (14-6). L.J. Owens added 13 points. Darnell Rogers had 13 points.