The America East (AE) basketball season continued on both the men’s and women’s sides this past week, with both of the conferences’ first-place teams winning close, crucial games to cement their leads atop the standings. On the men’s side, Vermont racked up two more wins to put some distance between itself and its competition, while the Stony Brook women were able to do the same. Here’s this week’s AE basketball recap:
On the men’s side, the AE-leading Catamounts (19-6, 9-1 AE) faced two tests this week, one of them easy and the other more challenging. On Wednesday, the Vermont men faced a struggling Maine team at home and rolled past them, with senior forward Anthony Lamb contributing a game-high 19 points. He was one of four players to finish in double digits in the contest.
Vermont’s star player, however, was held in check in Saturday’s road contest against Hartford. The Hawks were tied for third place heading into the contest, and their defense held Lamb to just seven points, while Hartford graduate student forward Malik Ellison and graduate student guard Traci Carter contributed key points to keep it a close game into the final stretch.
With 11 seconds to go, Carter nailed a short-range jumper to give the Hawks a one-point lead, but the Catamounts found a way to come out with a win. Off the ensuing timeout, Hartford left Vermont sophomore forward Ryan Davis wide open underneath the basket, and redshirt junior guard Ben Shungu found him for the game-winning layup. It was a heartbreaking loss that capped off a rough week for Hartford (13-12, 6-4 AE), in which it lost both of its games. Vermont, meanwhile, emerged unscathed.
“Davis has been coming along nicely,” said Vermont head coach John Becker following the Hartford game in an interview on ESPN+. “[Junior guard] Stef Smith I thought kept us in the game in the first half. He went on an 8-0 run himself. We have good balance, it’s just that we fouled too much. We have to play a little bit smarter.”
The Catamounts were also helped out this week by New Hampshire, who breezed by second-place Stony Brook at home on Saturday. Senior forward Chris Lester put up 22 points against the Seawolves (16-9, 7-3 AE), one of four UNH players to eclipse the 10-point mark. The Stony Brook loss puts two games between the Catamounts and the Seawolves in the standings, while the Wildcats (11-11, 4-5 AE) remain in fifth place, a half a game ahead of UMBC.
On the women’s side, Stony Brook’s spectacular season continued, as it remained undefeated in AE play by adding two more victories to its collection. The Seawolves (23-1, 11-0 AE) steamrolled second-place UMass Lowell on the road on Wednesday, putting them in excellent position to grab the top seed in the upcoming AE Tournament. Saturday’s home contest against New Hampshire was much closer, but key free throw shooting down the stretch allowed Stony Brook to hold off the Wildcats (7-15, 4-6 AE) for a two-point win.
“Basketball is a game of matchups,” said Stony Brook head coach Caroline McCombs after the New Hampshire game in an interview on ESPN+. “[New Hampshire head coach] Maureen [Magarity] does a great job with her program, and it’s been a tough matchup for us every year that we play them … but we’ve done enough things to come out on top. [I’m] so proud of our players’ perseverance today.”
The River Hawks (12-12, 8-3 AE), have fallen back down to earth after their surprise 7-0 start to AE play. In their last four games, the River Hawks have been defeated three times, including twice by Stony Brook. The team’s most recent game was at UMBC, a game that it lost by double digits. The Retrievers’ defense held UMass Lowell to just 52 points.
At one point, the River Hawks were safely in the top two and in good position to contest for first; now, Maine is only one game behind them, having recovered from its early-season slump, and the two teams will face each other in a crucial matchup this coming Wednesday. The battle for first seems to be winding down, but the battle for second is just heating up.
AE basketball action continues this coming week, with four games for both the men and the women on Wednesday, Feb. 12. On the men’s side, Maine travels to UMass Lowell, Albany will play at Hartford, New Hampshire is on the road at Vermont and Binghamton hosts Stony Brook. All four games tip off at 7 p.m. On the women’s side, New Hampshire hosts Vermont at 11 a.m. and Binghamton plays at Stony Brook at 6:31 p.m., while Albany hosts Hartford and Maine (11-14, 7-4 AE) hosts UMass Lowell at 7 p.m.