America East

America East Basketball News & Notes: Catamounts Still AE Best

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Just in case anyone was questioning whether the Vermont Catamounts (16-5, 6-0) were still the beasts of the league, last week answered those questions. Faced with a two-game road trip to Lowell and Bryant, the Catamounts did what they have been doing for quite some time. Accept all challenges and conquer them. First, it was an overtime win over the River Hawks last Thursday night. Then they made the short bus ride to Smithfield, RI, and took care of the Bulldogs on Saturday afternoon. The two road wins extended the nation’s longest conference winning streak to 21 straight games. The wins are numbers 295 and 296 of Coach John Becker’s career at Vermont. The Catamounts return to Patrick Gym to host UAlbany and Binghamton this week. Let’s take a look back at how last week went in America East.

The rematch of last spring’s tournament championship game took place before a sold-out crowd at Costello Athletic Center. Both teams threw some big-time body blows at each other. The River Hawks (14-5, 5-1) were down seven with 3:13 left in the game. They came roaring back with an 8-2 run to tie the game and send it to overtime. In the extra session, Vermont outscored UMass Lowell 12-5 to get the 72-65 victory. Big 3-point shots from TJ Long and TJ Hurley led to the road win. At Smithfield, RI on Saturday, the Catamounts faced Bryant College and came away with a 10-point win 67-57. Vermont received 35 points off the bench to offset a double-double from Sherif Gross-Bullock of 12 points and 10 rebounds. Three-point shooting was a problem all game long for Bryant as they were just 2-of-13 (15.4%).

UAlbany (11-10, 3-3) snapped a three-game losing streak with an 86-79 win over New Hampshire (12-8, 4-3) on Saturday. The road win was led by the Great Danes’ big three of Jonathan Beegel (14 points, 10 rebounds) his 10th of the season which leads the league and is tied for 13th in the country. Amar’e Marshall had a game-high 29. and Sebastian Thomas added 25 points. This trio offset the Wildcats trio of Clarence Daniels (21 points), Amhed Robinson (19 points), and Jaxson Baker (16 points). For the Wildcats, winning at home has been difficult early in the league year. UMH is 1-3.

The NJIT Highlanders (5-14, 1-6) picked up their first win of the league season on the road Saturday at UMBC (6-15, 1-5). By the end of the first half, it did not look so good for NJIT. Down 22 points at the break, the Highlanders staged quite a comeback outscoring UMBC by a 51-28 margin in the second half. Down one with 13 seconds left, Kjell de Graaf (18 points) scored a basket in the paint to give NJIT the lead at 75-74. They survived a 3-point try from UMBC’s Dion Brown that did not go. NJIT gets their first league win. For the sixth time in seven weeks, a member of the Highlanders is America East Rookie of the Week. Tarriq Francis averaged 19.5 points and seven rebounds in two games last week for NJIT. In the comeback win on Saturday, Francis had 22 points and nine boards.

Vermont’s big man Ileri Ayo-Faleye is the America East Player of the Week. He averaged 10.5 points, nine boards, four blocks, and two steals in the two road games last week. In the win over the River Hawks, Ayo-Faleye went for a double-double of 15 and 10 with five blocks. He helped anchor a defense that held UMass Lowell to 15 points below their average and then held Bryant College to 22 points under theirs.

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

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