MONROE, La. (AP) Tylor Ongwae and Majok Deng each scored 22 points and Louisiana-Monroe beat Vermont 71-65 on Wednesday night to advance to the College Basketball Invitational championship series.
Louisiana-Monroe (24-12) will face Loyola Chicago in the best-of-3 title series, with Game 1 in Chicago on Monday night. Loyola beat visiting Seattle 63-48 on Wednesday night.
”What a thrilling game – two good teams playing each other,” Monroe coach Keith Richard. ”Both teams had their moments in the game and you can really tell why both teams have won 20 games. That’s how it should be in the semifinals of a tournament.”
Deng also had 11 rebounds and made six of seven free throws for the Warhawks. Jamaal Samuel added 14 points and 5 of 5 from line. Ongwae made all six of his free throws.
”Coach has been giving me plays and my teammates are getting me open looks, so I have to credit them,” Ongwae said. ”Since I came here two years ago we never had a crowd like that. They were loud and pumped us up.”
Ethan O’Day had 16 points for Vermont (20-14).
”I’m really proud of our guys,” O’Day said. ”We came into this tournament with a lot of energy and we’ve been playing really hard every game. We went out throwing punches tonight playing really hard and I think this gives us a lot of momentum with this young team moving into next year. A lot of guys want to play better and hopefully we’ll get that American East championship next year.”
Dre Wills and Kurt Steidl each had 11 points.
”Congratulations to Monroe,” Vermont coach John Becker said. ”They played a good game and there a good team, a really long and athletic team. They gave us problems, especially when they switched to a 3-2 zone in the second half. They sped us up and we turned it over. We didn’t shoot well from the perimeter, but I’m really proud of our team. I thought the guys really battled hard.”