With the America East (AE) men’s basketball season entering its second half, the race for better positioning in the top half of the AE standings is heating up, while the battle to avoid ninth place and make the AE Tournament is getting tighter. Here is how this week’s AE hoops action played out:
All of the AE’s top three teams entering the week won both of their week’s games. Vermont extended its winning streak to seven games to stay atop the AE standings. The Catamounts (17-6, 7-1 AE) played twice on the road this past week, winning twice by double digits. In Wednesday’s game at New Hampshire, the Catamounts struggled offensively, but senior forward Anthony Lamb still managed to put up 20 points to lead all scorers. On the other end of the court, Vermont’s defense clamped down on the Wildcats (10-11, 3-5 AE), giving up only 43 points in an eventual 56-43 victory.
In Saturday’s contest against Albany, the Catamounts’ offense showed up, led once again by Lamb. The senior forward tallied 33 points on 10-for-17 shooting; he nailed three 3-pointers and went a perfect 10-for-10 from the line. Strong performances from Albany’s senior guard Ahmad Clark and sophomore guard Cameron Healy kept Albany in the game, but the Catamounts held off the Great Danes (12-11, 5-3 AE), 86-75.
“I thought in the second half we wore them down a little bit,” said Vermont head coach John Becker after the Albany game in an interview on ESPN+. “We started to get stops and get out in transition, which has been how we’ve played. Then we made a couple of shots and it kind of gets contagious. We got good production off the bench, and everyone contributed.”
Stony Brook kept pace one game behind Vermont, also winning both of its contests. In Wednesday’s game against UMass Lowell, four Stony Brook players reached double digits in scoring, led by redshirt junior guard Makale Foreman with 19 points. River Hawk graduate student guard Christian Lutete, the AE’s leading scorer, tallied 27 points and eight rebounds to keep the game close, but the River Hawks (9-14, 3-5 AE) failed to record any bench points, which proved to be the difference in an 84-76 result.
The Seawolves (15-8, 6-2 AE) returned home on Saturday to face UMBC, a game in which balanced, even contributions led Stony Brook to another victory. Junior guard Elijah Olaniyi scored a game-high 21 points, and Foreman was not far behind with 18. Stony Brook led by five at the break, but steadily increased its lead in the game all the way to a 74-63 victory.
“The start was better,” said Stony Brook head coach Geno Ford in an interview on SNY. “It wasn’t extraordinary in either half. I was happy we were able to win, that’s not an easy game.”
After handily dispatching Binghamton at home on Wednesday, Hartford traveled to Maine for what turned out to be a defensive battle that the Hawks won by six. Maine (6-16, 2-6 AE) jumped out to an early lead, going ahead by as many as seven points, but Hartford (13-10, 6-2 AE) closed the gap before halftime. Freshman guard Moses Flowers led the Hawks in points with 15, and two other players reached double digits. Hartford was able to keep a sizable distance between itself and Maine for the majority of the second half, with Maine unable to make it close and Hartford unable to truly pull away. The final score was 55-49, with Maine hitting a few free throws in garbage time to lessen the deficit.
With eight games left to play for each team in the conference, Vermont still resides in first place with a one-game lead over second place. Stony Brook and Hartford are tied for second place, while the Great Danes’ loss to Vermont drops them to fourth, two games behind the Catamounts. On the bottom end of the standings, losses by Maine, Binghamton (8-13, 2-6 AE) and two losses by UMBC (9-14, 2-6 AE) this week leave all three programs tied for last place. The last-place team at the end of the season will miss out on the AE Tournament, which all three teams are hoping to avoid.
AE action continues next week on Wednesday, Feb. 5 with four games that all tip off at 7 p.m. Maine travels to Vermont, Binghamton faces in-state rival Albany on the road, UMass Lowell is on the road at Stony Brook and UMBC will host Hartford.