With two weeks and four games left in the regular season, one team has clinched a home game in the first round of the America East Basketball championship. To no one’s surprise, that team is the Vermont Catamounts who did it in front of their home fans last Saturday afternoon by defeating Binghamton. On Thursday night, they can all but wrap up the regular-season title by going on the road and beating the only team in the conference to have beaten them. On January 8, the Stony Brook Seawolves went up to Burlington, Vt. and won 81-77. The rematch is set for ESPNU at 7 PM. Here are some other things going on in the league.
Vermont will bring an 11-game unbeaten streak with them to their game with Stony Brook. At 21-6, the Cats are putting themselves in position to have the championship run through Burlington, Vt. once again. They are ranked in the Top-15 in the Mid Major Poll while boasting a KenPom ranking of #66. As always, they are led by senior forward Anthony Lamb. On Saturday he became the seventh player in league history to reach the 1,800 points and 800 rebounds milestones. He is the second Catamounts player to reach those numbers with the other being Taylor Coppenrath, who earlier this year had his number retired by the school. Lamb may be the next to have that honor.
It’s been a rough year for the Maine Black Bears. They lost twice last week and hold down the final spot in this year’s playoff championship with a conference record of 3-9. Maine does have one thing going for them. They are currently first in America East and seventh in the nation in assists to field goal percentage. The Black Bears have registered an assist on 62.9% of their made field goals this year and have a member of the one thousand point club on the active roster. Senior Andrew Fleming became the 31st member of that group and the second since 2011. By season’s end, Fleming should be inside the top-10 in Black Bears scoring history.
The Black Bears also have something else that makes them a bit of a trailblazing program. They are the only school in division one to have a female assistance coach on the bench. Assistant coach Edniesha Curry is on the Maine bench for her second season. She also was a part of the women program in Orono working as player development and assistant coach from July 2015-May 2017. She also has some head coaching in her background in Vietnam and in Taiyuan, China. Curry played professional basketball in the WNBA and overseas.
This week, the America East Player of the Week is Hartford senior forward Malik Ellison. In a week that saw the Hawks go 1-1, Ellison averaged 20.5 points, 13 rebounds, two and a half assists, and two steals. He shot 58% from the field in both games going 18-for-31. In their win over Albany last Wednesday night, Ellison went for a double-double of 18 points and 19 rebounds. In a loss to the River Hawks this past Saturday at home, he went for 23 points and seven boards. Lowell head coach Pat Duquette said, “he is tremendous.” This is Ellison’s first weekly award of the season.
The Rookie of the Week is River Hawks center, Connor Withers. In two key wins last week at home vs Maine and on the road at Hartford, Withers averaged 18.5 points, six and a half boards, and two assists. Withers shot 54% from the field (13-of-24) and was six-of-ten (60%) from three-point range. In the win over the Black Bears, Connor had 17 points and seven boards. On Saturday, he went for a career-high 20 points, with six boards and three assists in their win over the Hawks. For Withers, this is his second weekly award.
As Stony Brook get ready for their big home showdown with Vermont on Thursday, keep these things in mind. They are the number one team in the league in blocked shots, averaging 4.84 per game, 121 total in 25 outings. They are second in both offensive and defensive rebounding, averaging 11.5 on the offense glass, and 28.1 on the defensive glass. They are the second-best scoring offense in the league at 71 points per game and are the best three-point shooting team in the league at 34% (217-for-628).
In some off the court news, the America East Conference has reached a sponsorship deal with Hercules Tire to be the title sponsor for both the Men’s and Women’s basketball playoffs. This will be a multi-year agreement which marks the largest sponsorship deal agreement in America East history. The playoffs will begin with the women on March 4, and for the men on March 7. Last season saw the largest attendance for both events in the last three years no doubt helpful in signing this deal.
Next week we look at the final week of conference play in America East