As we look ahead to the final month of league play in the America East Conference, a clear leader has emerged. The Vermont Catamounts have become the class of the league, and the team that the rest of the conference is trying to chase down. Vermont is not making this easy as they have been on quite a roll since league play began. On Monday night, the Albany Great Danes will be finishing a three-game road trip in which they have won the first two contests in Burlington, Vt. They take their shot at the first-place team in the conference. Here is some of what else is going on in the league.
As the Catamounts welcome the Great Danes to Vermont, here are some numbers to consider when grading just how good Vermont has been in January. They are off to a 7-0 league start for the sixth time in program history. This great stretch of basketball, winners of nine in a row and 10 of their last 11, started right around the holidays. As the wins pile up, their Net Ranking continues to improve. As of Monday, the Catamounts ranking is at 70. During the seven-game winning streak, Vermont has averaged 85 points per game and has outscored their opponents by an average of 18 points a game.
Albany (4-3 in AE) rolled into Vermont winners of five of their last six games. Defense has become a calling card of this team during league play. They are holding conference foes to 64 points a game. On the offensive side of things, the Great Danes are averaging 68 points a contest. Graduate senior Matt Cerruti is leading the team in scoring at 11 points a game. Jamie Horton leads the team in assists with over 60 so far this year. This is the first of two meetings between the two schools. Next time they get together will be on Feb.12 in Albany.
The UMass Lowell River Hawks (2-5 in AE) have struggled in the first month of league play. Not all is bad news as they lead America East in turnover margin at +2.3 and they score 15 points a game off of those turnovers. Sophomore forward Max Brooks is becoming one of the better rim protectors in the league. He leads the league in blocked shots per game at 2.29, which is also 34th in the country. His high took place back on Jan.12 when Brooks blocked 10 shots vs the Great Danes which set an all-time program record. The team leads the league in blocked shots with 81 in 19 games (4.26) and in steals with 149 (7.84)
Maryland-Baltimore Country has started to play some good basketball as of late. Winners of three straight for the first time since Nov.23 thru Dec.1, they begin the week in 5th place in the standings at 4-4. They average 73 points a game which is third-best in the league. UMBC is the #1 in team FT percentage at 77% (255-331), and number one in three-point FG made with 169 in 19 games for an 8.9 average. L.J. Owens is second in 3-point FG percentage at 44% (40-90). The 40 makes have him 5th in the league in 3-point FG made (2.1 a game).
NJIT is a game under .500 at 3-4 in conference play. They are second to the River Hawks in blocked shots with 74 in 19 games (3.89), and #1 in team defensive rebounding at 28 a game (531 total). They are second in opponent FG percentage at 41% (461-1119). Miles Coleman is second in the scoring race averaging 15.9 points per night and is sixth in rebounding at 6.3 a game. Dylan O’hearn is second in 3-point makes with 46 in 19 games. That averages out to 2.4 per contest.
America East Player of the Week is UMBC Keondre Kennedy. In a 2-0 week for the Retrievers, Kennedy averaged 24 points, eight boards, and four assists. He shot 59% from the field (19-of-32). Had a career night against NJIT last Wednesday night when he went for 31 points, seven rebounds, and five assists. He followed that up with a 17 point nine-rebound effort against Binghamton on Saturday. For Kennedy, this is his first career weekly award.
The League’s Rookie of the Week is Justin Neely from Albany. This is Neely’s fifth weekly award this season. In Albany’s two wins last week, Neely averaged five points and four boards off the bench. He played in just 14 minutes off the bench for the Great Danes. Neely also leads his team in rebounding with 92 on the season, averaging six per contest. Neely does have one double-double to his credit on Dec.21 vs Lehigh (11 Pts. 14 Reb.). He grabbed 12 boards in a league game versus UNH on Jan.8th.
That’s all for this week. We will be back next week with more from America East.
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