The more things change, the more they stay the same. That’s the best way to describe the first half of the America East basketball season. The Vermont Catamounts ran the table in the first half going 8-0 and 18-5 overall. They extended their conference winning streak to 23 games. That winning streak is the best in the nation. The Catamounts are climbing up the ladder in the Mid-Major Top 25 poll and this week Vermont is at #14. Their NET Ranking is at 102. The UMass Lowell River Hawks, though not in the top 25 of this poll, did receive some attention by getting 15 votes.
The final week of the first half was interesting. On Thursday night, all four home teams were victorious. On Saturday, it was a 2-2 split. Road teams did get off to a very good start by going 18-10 to begin league play. Last week home teams responded by putting together a 6-2 record. The first half ended with a wild one between UAlbany and UMBC, which the Retrievers won by a 114-102 score. The 216 combined points are the most ever in a regulation game. It is the second most behind a 113-111 overtime win by UNH over Delaware in 1995. Tyler Bertram dropped 36 points for the Great Danes in that one. He also knocked down 10 three-pointers, which is tied for third-most in league history. The 10 are the most 3-point makes since 2019.
There were some interesting results last week. At Tsongas Center on Saturday, the UNH Wildcats (13-8, 5-3) put on a 3-point shooting display at the expense of the River Hawks (15-6, 6-2). UNH entered this game averaging 9 made three-pointers a contest, which ranked them first in the league. On Saturday, they made 14-of-27 from distance 51.9%. Senior forward Clarence Daniels recorded his ninth double-double of the season by scoring 32 points and 12 rebounds, and he shot 62% for the game at 13-of-21. It was a big week for the senior from Brooklyn Park, Minnesota who recorded his 1,000th point on January 27 in a home game vs UAlbany. Daniels, who is a Co-Player of the Week in AE is tied for 25th in the country in double-doubles.
Daniels is one of three America East players in the Top 25 in double-doubles. Jonathan Beagle of UAlbany is tied for 15th with 10. Earl Timberlake of Bryant is in that group tied for 25th place with nine. The league has some good individual talent that is playing some ball this season.
In that wild one at UAlbany (11-12, 3-5), UMBC (7-16 2-6) picked up a big win on the road by shooting 57% from the field, and 82% from the FT line. The Retrievers placed six players in double-figures led by Dion Brown who had a double-double of 29 points and 12 rebounds, Brown was named Co-Player of the Week in AE. He had back-to-back double-doubles for the week. He had 31 points and 12 boards in a loss to Bryant earlier in the week. In the two games, Brown shot 60% (24-of-39).
A key to the win for UMBC was their ability to score in the paint. They would get 68 points in the paint for the game, a big reason why they shot 57% for the game. The Great Danes were not bad themselves, shooting 50% from the field and 38.5% from distance. They were also without Beagle for this one, which may be the reason why UMBC did so much damage in the paint. Bertram did try to make up for the loss of Beagle by going 13-of-20 from the field, and 10-of-16 from deep.
Some point guards are making some noise not only in the league but in the country as well. UMass Lowell senior Ayinde Hikim is tied for 37th in the nation with 115 assists in 21 games. He averaged 5.5 assists per game which places him second in the conference behind Binghamton PG Symir Torrence who is averaging 7.3 a contest and has 153 in 21 games which is good for 6th in the nation. UAlbany’s Sebastian Thomas is 4th in the league with 111 in 23 games. An average of 4.8 a game. He is tied for 45th in the nation.
A leading candidate for Sixth Man of the Year in America East is River Hawks G/F Quinton Mincy. The senior from Upper Marlboro, MD. has scored in double-figures in his last nine straight games. He put up a season and career-high 25 points in the loss to UNH on Saturday. He has one double-double to his credit and that took place back on January 6 vs the Wildcats. He has become a scorer off the bench that the opposing team needs to be prepared for.
Another guard who is making waves in this league is Maine’s junior Kellen Tynes. He leads America East in steals with an average of 2.4 a game in 22 games. He has 53 for the season. He is tied for 10th in the country in steals and is tied for 11th in the country in steals per game at 2.41.
The AE Rookie of the Week is Franck Emmou of UMBC. He scored a career-high 24 points in that wild win vs UAlbany. For the week, Emmou shot 10-of-12 averaging 17 points per game in two games last week.
That’s a look at how the first half went for some. Next week we’ll be back as the second half gets underway.
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