With a month left in the America East Conference season, it should come as no surprise that the defending champs are starting to hit their stride. The Vermont Catamounts, who have battled injuries and some inconsistent play this season have now won four in a row to take the top spot in the league. They are one of four teams that had an unbeaten week in league play. The other side of things, finds UMass Lowell making a trip to northern New England and having nothing to show for it. They lost both games at Maine and New Hampshire. This league is a grind with little separation from top to bottom. Here are some of last week’s happenings.
The Vermont Catamounds (12-10, 6-2) are playing their best basketball of the season winning on the road at Binghamton, then returning home to handle the University of Maryland-Baltimore Country. In the win over the Bearcats, four players finished in double-figures led by Finn Sullivan with 20 points. He shot 50% from three-point land (5-of-10). He got help from two other members of the starting five as Dylan Penn (18) and Matt Veretto (14) chipped in. The trio went a combined 20-for-37 in the game. TJ Hurley came off the bench and added 11 points and Vermont never trailed in this one. On Saturday night, other members of the team stepped up. Robin Duncan had 20, and Aaron Deloney, off the bench, had 13 to lead the cause in the 74-68 win. During this win streak, the Cats are winning by a margin of 17 points. Duncan leads the league in assists/turnover ratio at 2.9 (83 assists to 29 turnovers), and he is also 6th in rebounding at 6.9 a game.
The Maine Black Bears also went 2-0 last week with wins over the River Hawks and UAlbany. The Black Bears (9-12, 3-5) have now won three in a row. In the five-point win over Lowell, five players had a double-digit game, and four of them were starters. They would score 53 of the 75 Maine points on the night. They would shoot 53% from the field (26-of-49) and 50% from 3-point land (6-of-12). In the 72-68 road win at Albany, four starters once again were the difference as they would account for 54 of the 72 points. One of those Black Bears starters is Kellen Tynes who had double-digit scoring games in both of last week’s wins. He also had eight steals in both wins. He leads the league with 66 steals in 21 games for an average of 3.1 a game. That number also leads the nation. He is the league leader in minutes played at 35 minutes a contest. Maine is the best at stealing the ball in the league averaging 9.81 a game (206 in 21 games).
NJIT is starting to dig itself out of an early-season hole. The Highlanders (6-14, 3-4) won their only game of last week vs UMBC. The 69-65 win was led by Mekhi Gray’s 18 points and seven rebounds. Adam Hess chipped in with 13. The big story of this game was the Highlanders bench which outscored UMBCs by a 24-11 margin. NJIT is second in opponent 3-point FG percentage at 0.328 (148-of 451). Kevin Osawe is third in rebounding at 8.2 a game. Hess is first in 3-point field goal percentage at .438 (39-of-89) and sixth in 3-point made field goals with those 39 for an average of 2.1 a night.
Both UMass Lowell and UMBC had a tough week as both teams went 0-2. For the River Hawks (17-6, 5-4), they are starting to be a little Jekyll and Hyde. They are unbeaten at home going 4-0 while being 1-3 on the road. They still own the best scoring margin in the league at 11.1. Home court in the playoffs could depend on how teams play away from the comforts of their own gym. UMBC (14-9, 4-4) has the best assists/turnover ratio at 1.50 (349 assists to 232 turnovers). They are second in 3-point field goals made at 8.7 (200 in 23 games). Like the River Hawks, the University of Maryland-Baltimore County has been a little streaky at 1-3 on the road and 3-1 at home.
The America East Player of the Week is New Hampshire forward Clarence Daniels. He averaged double-doubles of 17 points and 15 rebounds in a 2-0 week for the Wildcats. In the Saturday win over the River Hawks, Daniels played all 40 minutes and had a double-double of 22 points and 13 rebounds. In the win over the Great Danes, Daniels went for 12 points and 17 rebounds. For the season, Daniels has ten double-doubles including the last four games in a row. For Daniels, this is his second weekly award.
The America East Rookie of the Week is Maine’s, Jaden Clayton. In the Black Bears’ two wins a week ago, Clayton averaged 12 points, four and a half boards, three assists, and two steals. He is second in the league with an average of 1.8 steals a game (37 in 21 games), seventh in minutes played with 32.3, and fifth in assists/ turnover ratio at 1.8 (83 assists to 43 turnovers). This is Clayton’s second weekly award of the year.
That’s how things look for this week. We will be back next week with more from the America East Conference.
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