The first week of the college basketball season went well for the America East Conference. Two teams, Vermont and UMass Lowell came up with solid wins on the road. While the defending champs got off to a slow start. That’s right folks, college hoops are back and it’s time to start on the road to March.
Vermont (1-1) got things started with a road win over Northern Iowa 71-57. The wire-to-wire victory was fueled by the Catamounts taking care of the basketball on the road. They committed only 10 turnovers while shooting 45% from the field as well as a perfect 6-for-6 from the free-throw line. Vermont did real damage in the paint scoring 30 points and getting 19 points off the bench. The defense did a good job of making it difficult for Northern Iowa to score holding them to only 28% shooting from 3-point land (6-21) and 35% from the field (19-53). The win was even more impressive based on Northern Iowa being picked to finish third in the Missouri Valley Conference. After losing to nationally ranked Maryland on Saturday, the Catamounts open up their home schedule this week.
The UMass Lowell River Hawks (2-0) began a five-game road trip in fine fashion as they knocked off the Dayton Flyers 59-58. Lowell placed only one player in double-figures, but it was his ability to knock down shots that turned out to be why Lowell won. Justin Faison, one of the five transfers that came to the River Hawks over the summer, scored 21 points including two big three’s in the second half when it looked like the Flyers were about to take the game over. Lowell got great guard play all game long as they turned the ball over only eight times, while the Flyers made 17 mistakes. Lowell’s defense was also good, especially in the first half holding Dayton to 24% shooting from the field. The 2-0 start is the first since they became a division one program (2013-14). The River Hawks defeated a Dayton team that knows how to protect their homecourt advantage having gone 27-3 in their last 30 home games.
The Hartford Hawks have gotten off to a tough start at 0-3. Losses to Wagner (77-59), Campbell (68-67), and Army (86-79) have the Hawks doing a little regrouping. Of the three losses, the one that may hurt the most could be the last one vs Army in the Duke Classic. The Black Knights led from start to finish not only getting 26 points in the paint but also getting 29 fast break points. Hartford had a difficult time with Army in the open court. This week the Hawks will get a chance to return home and celebrate their winning the conference championship last March. On Thursday the program will raise the banner before hosting Boston University.
In other news, Binghamton (1-1) head coach Leveil Sanders recorded his first win at the school on Sunday as the Bearcats defeated Sacred Heart on the road 72-60. Binghamton got a great effort off the bench from Keilen Amos who dropped 26 points on the Pioneers. John McGriff scored 15 points in a starting role. The Bearcats defense was on its game holding Sacred Heart to 38% shooting from the field, 26% from three.
NJIT (1-1) split a pair of games in a tournament at Rutgers. After losing to Merrimack in their opener. They came back on Saturday to beat Lehigh 73-56 behind Dylan O’Hearn game-high 23 points.
The America East Player of the Week belongs to Vermont’s Ben Shungu who in a pair of games last week averaged 23.5 points, five and a half rebounds, and two and a half assists. Ben had a 19 point, seven-rebound effort in the win over Northern Iowa then backed that up with a 27 point game vs #21 Maryland on 10-of-18 shooting. The senior guard from South Burlington, VT. shot a combined 16-of-29 from the floor (55%) and was 7-of-13 from behind the arc (54%). This is Shungu’s first career weekly award.
The Rookie of the Week is Maine’s Byron Ireland. The freshman guard from Annapolis, MD averaged 19.5 minutes off the bench for the Black Bears (1-1) in their two games last week. He scored seven points, two and a half boards, two assists, and two steals. In their opening night loss to Virginia Tech, Ireland contributed nine points, two rebounds, two assists, and two steals in 21 minutes of playing time.
We are off and running with the America East Conference. Stay with us all season long for more news and notes from the league.
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