As the conference gets ready to begin league play, America East teams continue to bring attention to themselves. The Hartford Hawks are the latest to bring some notice with a victory over the Northwestern Wildcats over the Christmas holiday. It’s the fourth win in as many seasons over a Big Ten team and the tenth over a Power-5 or Big East team since the start of the 2015-16 season. Jan. 4th is when league play gets underway with four games featuring eight teams that will be on the docket. Vermont is the one that gets the first weekend off. Here is some other news from the America East Conference
The Hawks got a big game from this week’s Rookie of the Week in defeating Northwestern. Miroslav Stafl had 15 points, nine rebounds, and three assists in the victory on Sunday. He shot 5-of-6 from the field, 83 percent, in the 67-66 win. He played 34 minutes on the afternoon, Stafl is averaging just under a block shot a game. This is his second weekly award this year. One of the big reasons for Hartford getting the win was their 3-point FG defense which on Sunday held the Wildcats to 27% shooting on 6-for-22. The Hawks, so far, in 14 games are allowing 29% shooting from distance (83-of-281) while shooting 35% themselves at 114-for-326. The Hawks are number one in steals at 7.36 a game, (103 in 14 games).
The Player of the Week is Stony Brook junior guard Elijah Olaniyi. In their victory on Sunday at home vs Norfolk State, Olaniyi dropped a game-high 20 points with seven rebounds and seven assists. He is third in the conference in scoring at 18.8 a game, third in 3-point FG Percentage at 39% (33-for-83), and is eighth in minutes played at 33 minutes a night. This is his second weekly award this season.
His team is second in Team Defense at 65 points a game, fourth in Scoring Offense at 69 a game, and third in Margin at 4.1 a contest. Stony Brook is second in Percent Defense at 38% (352-for-911), the best 3-Point shooting team in the league at 36% (122-of-344) and third in Field Goals made averaging nine a game. They are also the best Free Throw shooting team in the league at 72%.(192-of-264), Stony Brook is second in both Offense and Defensive rebounding, 11 on the offensive side, 28 on the defensive side. Their Rebound Margin of 4.3 is second in the league.
The UMass Lowell River Hawks have been scuffing in recent games. Injuries and illness have contributed to their current struggles. One player who has been trying to pick up the slack is junior transfer guard Jordyn Owens. Owens is sixth in Assists with 42 in 14 games averaging three a game. He is fifth in Assists/Turnovers ratio at 1.2 a game (42 assists to 35 turnovers) and is scoring about nine points a game in the 14 the River Hawks have played so far. Owens had a game-high nine free throws made in a loss to Merrimack back in November.
The UNH Wildcats finished off non-conference play with a 14 point victory over their in-state rival Dartmouth on Monday afternoon. The 70-56 win has the Wildcats one game over .500 as league play gets set to kickoff. UNH had three players finish in double-figures on the day while holding the Big Green to 31% shooting from the floor (19-for-60) and only 21% from distance (4-for-19). UNH is still the best scoring team in the league at 74 points a game while their defense is allowing 66.8 a game. The margin of 7.7 is second in the league. They are number one in both Offensive and Defensive rebounding in America East and on offense, they average 11.7 a game. On defense, they grab 31.2 a game which gives them the best Rebounding Margin at 8.2.
The team that will have the first weekend off is Vermont. The Cats still have the best defense in the league allowing only 58.8 points a game combined with their offensive output of 67.2 a game. Vermont has the best Margin at 8.4 a game. They are second in both Turnover Margin at 0.77, and in Assists/Turnover ratio at 1.08 (164 assists to 152 turnovers). They are second in Block Shots at 3.92 a night (51 blocked shots in 13 games) and lead the league in Attendance at 63,296 total. At home, they have played in front of 13,802 fans for an averaged of 2,760 per home game.
Next week, it’s all about the beginning of conference play in America East.