America East

America East Basketball News & Notes: A Surprise at the Top

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America East hoops is now in full swing. The chase is on to capture the regular-season championship and the #1 seed that goes with it for the postseason tournament. While it is true that not everyone has played the same amount of games to date, a surprise is nonetheless at the top of the standings. On the virus front, eight games have been postponed to this point. The league is and will do everything they can to have these games played at some point. Here is a look at what else is going on in the league.

The surprise we mention is NJIT (3-0, 8-5) who last week took care of both UMass Lowell and Binghamton to start their conference season undefeated. It is the first time the Highlanders have been 3-0 in conference play since 2012-13. The team is number one in blocked shots with 57 in 13 games for an average of 4.38 a game. They are also first in defensive rebounding averaging 29.5 a night, and first in FG PCT defense from 3-point range (0.297, 88-296 in 13 games). That helped them to place second overall in percent defense at .394% (310-787).

The other undefeated team is no surprise. The Vermont Catamounts (1-0, 9-4) got a chance to play on national television last Thursday night. The victory over UNH was led by a career-high 29 points from Ben Shungu. Since the conference season has begun, Vermont has been in the top 100 of the NET ranking. This week they are at 96, and head into this week’s set of games winners of six of their last eight games.

The Albany Great Danes have not gotten off to a good start on the year standing at 0-2 and 4-10 overall. The Great Danes have lost two in a row as they get set to host the River Hawks on Wednesday night. As with any team that is struggling, there are reasons as to why. Their offense has had a hard time putting the ball in the basket scoring 60.4 points a night which has them next to last in the league. Their margin is last in the conference at -8.0 a game. Albany is next to last in percentages at 40.2, and dead last in FG PCT defense at .365. They are the worst defensive rebounding team at 22.6 which could mean they are giving up too many second-chance opportunities. This leaves them with the worst rebounding margin at -5.3. There are lots of things for the Great Danes to improve on.

The America East preseason favorites were the Stony Brook Seawolves (1-0, 9-5) but the virus has been a bit of an issue with this team. If there is an early-season concern, it could be their defense that ranks last in percent defense at 46% through 14 games. They are dead last in opponent percentage at the free-throw line 65.7% (113-172). On the bright side, they are second in steals at 8.07 a game (113 in 14 contests).

There are Co-Players of the Week in the league. First, there is Miles Coleman of NJIT who was unstoppable last Wednesday night on the road at Lowell. The senior from West Palm Beach, Florida went for a career-high 30 points against the River Hawks. For the two contests he played in he averaged 24.5 points, seven boards, and 3.5 assists. This is the second straight week for Coleman being named Player of the Week. The other Player of the Week is Vermont’s Ben Shungu who went for a career-high 29 points and four assists in the win over the Wildcats last Thursday night. He shot 11-of-16 from the floor in the game.

The Freshman of the Week may be the reason you go see the Maine Black Bears play basketball this winter. Sam Ihekwoaba wins this weekly award for the third time, the other two were back on 1/3, 12/6. He dropped a career-high 22 points and added nine boards in a loss to Stony Brook last Saturday. In 36 minutes of playing time, Sam went 10-19 from the field, 1-of-6 from 3-point land, and 1-1 from the foul line.

Next week we will be back with more from the America East Conference.

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