We have arrived at the finish line of the America East Conference regular season. With only four days left, two quarterfinal home spots are still up for grabs. Vermont, by virtue of winning the regular-season title, and UMBC, are the two schools at the moment that know they will be hosting a home game in the playoffs on March 6. Big games will be played on the first night in March. One final game between UMass Lowell and Hartford takes place on Thursday night. As best we can, here’s how things look at this time.
The two teams that are in the driver’s seat for the last two home sites are New Hampshire and Albany. The Wildcats (9-8) head to Lowell on Tuesday night to end their regular season. The first time these two teams met was back on Jan.22 at Lundholm Gymnasium in Durham, NH. with UNH winning 67-61. It was a game that featured six ties and 11 lead changes. UNH got the better of this contest based on scoring 44 points in the paint and 11 second-chance points. They had four players finish the game in double figures. Both teams only turned the ball over eight times in this one, but the River Hawks (6-10) would lose one of their main weapons in the first half. Sophomore forward Max Brooks played just 12 minutes in the game. All of his time was in the first half and then he left with an injury and never saw the court in the second half. Lowell had problems putting the ball in the basket as they shot only 35% from the field (22-63) and 24% from three (5-21). Both of these numbers will have to improve if the River Hawks are to win on Senior Night at home. These two have been in some really tight game in recent years and this one should be no different.
The Great Danes (9-8) will visit Hartford (8-8) on Tuesday night. This could be a quarterfinal preview. The Hawks have a slight advantage in that they have an extra game this week on Thursday night when they host Lowell. If Hartford can sweep the week, they could end up with home court on Sunday, March 6. Needless to say, a very big game will take place at SEFCU Arena in Albany, NY on Tuesday night. Albany won the first matchup on Feb.5 by a 71-52 score in Hartford. This game had 10 ties and 11 lead changes mostly in the first half. The game was tied at 29-29 at halftime. The Great Danes busted the game open in the second half by outsourcing the Hawks by a 42-23 margin. Matt Cerruti and Jamel Horton combined for 29 points out of the starting lineup for Albany. Hartford’s Moses Flowers was the only double-figure man for the Hawks with 11 points. Hartford had a tough shooting game, shooting just 40% from the field (21-52), 33% from three (6-18), and 44% from the free-throw line (4-9). They will have to be better Tuesday night.
NJIT (6-11) sits in the eighth and final spot for the playoffs. They have a three-game lead on the Maine Black Bears (3-14), so their spot is safe. However, they can move up if the River Hawks slip up this week. If the Highlanders win at Stony Brook and UMass Lowell were to lose both games this week, NJIT would avoid playing at Vermont in the quarterfinals and the River Hawks would get that honor. If the two teams end up in a tie, the Highlanders own the tiebreaker on Lowell based on winning both contests this year.
The America East Player of the Week is Keondre Kennedy of UMBC. In the two victories by his team last week, Kennedy averaged 19 points, six rebounds, and two assists. He shot 52% (16-of-31) from the field. In last Wednesday’s win over Stony Brook, Kennedy went for 24 points and five boards. In Saturday’s win over Maine, he went for 15 points and seven rebounds. For the senior out of Atlanta, GA. this is his second career weekly award.
In what will end up to be a disappointing year for the Maine Black Bears, they do have a couple of freshman players to build this program around. Last week’s AE Rookie of the Week is Kristians Feierbergs. In last Saturday’s loss to UMBC, Kristians came off the bench and scored 11 points in 12 minutes of game time. He shot 4-of-5 from the field. This is his second rookie award this season. Eight times this season players from Maine have won the rookie weekly award. If this group can stay together, good things may not be too far away for this program.
That’s it for the regular season and now it’s on to the playoffs in America East.
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