When you are trying to build a resume that will play well in March, winning early-season non-conference games is key. Doing it on the road is a bigger plus. That is what is happening in America East Conference as we embark on a week of holiday hoops. Let’s take a look at how things are shaping up as Thanksgiving approaches.
Before Vermont (3-1) took off for warmer weather in Florida and the Gulf Coast Classic, the Catamounts took on Yale last Friday night. Yale is considered a preseason favorite in the Ivy League. That made no difference to Vermont as they defeated the Bulldogs by a 61-53 score to head down to the sunshine state at 3-1. Once again, the Cats two stars came to play as Ryan Davis and Ben Shungu carried the home team to victory. A game that featured seven lead changes and seven ties also saw Vermont score zero points in the paint or off the fast break. Instead, the Catamounts won this game at the free-throw line where they were 17-of 25 for the game. Defense has become the calling card of this team and they are the best in America East allowing only 56.3 points per game. They are also tops in rebounding defense at 33.8 a game. They are averaging 29.5 defensive rebounds a game which gives them a rebounding margin of 3.3. Both are also #1 in the league. They say defense wins championships and the Catamounts are certainly making that point.
The UMass Lowell River Hawks (4-1) may be unhappy when the non-league games are done with. That’s because they are 2-0 vs teams from the Atlantic-10 Conference. Last Friday night at George Washington, the River Hawks started slowly but finished with quite a kick in their step. They would come back from the halftime break to outscore the Colonials by twenty in the second half to win their second straight road game against the league, this one by a 67-56 score. The River Hawks got a big night from Max Brooks who went for 23 points, and five boards. Lowell had a difficult time knocking down shots in the game, shooting only 3-of-21 from three-point land. In the second half, they changed their approach and it worked getting 40 points in the paint, 21 points off turnovers as they turn up the defensive pressure, and 20 fast-break points as the team got out and ran in the second half. All of this while holding Georgia Washington to 32% shooting for the game. UMass Lowell gets one more shot at the A-10 as they will meet UMass Amherst on the road Wednesday night. The 4-1 start is the best start for the River Hawks since becoming a division one program.
Maryland-Baltimore County (2-2) picked up a nice win last week, as they took out Western Carolina by a 91-75 count. The victory was led by Darrell Rogers who dropped 23 in the win. The team as a whole shot well in this one. 50% from the field, 40% from deep, and 80% from the free line (16-20). UMBC received 34 points off the bench and another 25 off turnovers. Maryland-Baltimore County has the second-best offense in the league, averaging 72.8 points per game.
The University of Albany (0-5) began a five-game road trip last week in the state of Kentucky. Unfortunately for them, the trip did not get off to a good start as they lost both games in the state to Eastern Kentucky and #10 Kentucky. Matt Cerrutt had a nice game vs Eastern Kentucky going for 17 points. The Great Danes turned the ball over 14 times which resulted in 14 points for Eastern Kentucky. Against the #10 team in the country, the Wildcats had five players reach double-figures while holding the Great Danes to 28% shooting from deep (7-for 25).
The Player of the Week is Vermont’s, Ryan Davis. In two games last week, he averaged 23 points, nine rebounds, and 3.5 blocks. In the win over Yale, Davis went for 18 points, nine boards, three dimes, four blocks, and two steals. It is the first Player of the Week honor for Davis.
The Rookie of the week is Justin Neely of Albany. In the two games in the state of Kentucky, Neely went for an average of 9.5 points and seven rebounds. In the loss to Eastern Kentucky, Neely had a career-high 15 points and seven boards.
Next week we will look at how things went over the holiday weekend in America East.