With just a few games left to play until the America East (AE) playoffs begin, the playoff pictures on both the men’s and women’s sides are starting to come into focus. On the women’s side, the top seed was locked up by Stony Brook this past week, with the Seawolves (25-2, 13-1 AE) securing the AE regular season title. The Vermont men had the opportunity to do the same this week, but were prevented from doing so by an upset loss at home. Here’s how it all broke down in AE hoops this week:
With the two next best teams in the AE having four conference losses coming into the week, all the Stony Brook women needed to do was hit 13 AE wins to clinch the regular season title. The team did so in its first game of the week on Wednesday, continuing its unbeaten run in conference play in the process.
“Our team has worked really hard,” said Stony Brook head coach Caroline McCombs, per stonybrookathletics.com. “They know that it’s another step in the process. They deserve it, but we’re not done. We just want to finish what we started.”
Wednesday’s contest was a close game at Vermont that the Seawolves won by only four points. Vermont (12-16, 6-9 AE) was ahead by nine points in the first quarter, but Stony Brook did not relent and worked its way back into the contest. The Seawolves trailed the entire fourth quarter until sophomore guard Anastasia Warren nailed a 3-pointer with just over two minutes remaining. With about three seconds left, Vermont had the ball down by two, but a turnover by senior forward Hanna Crymble sealed the victory for SBU. Warren led all scorers in the game with 22 points.
Though the title was already wrapped up, Stony Brook saw its 22-game win streak come to a halt in a 64-62 overtime loss at Maine. Up by two points with the ball in the final minute of the overtime period, Maine’s junior guard Dor Saar secured a vital offensive rebound off her own jump shot that allowed the Black Bears (14-14, 10-4 AE) to run out the clock and win the game. Redshirt senior guard Maddy McVicar scored a game-high 28 points to help Maine to a victory that puts it in great shape to finish second in the conference.
On the men’s side, Vermont (22-7, 12-2 AE) won an important matchup on Wednesday at Stony Brook, the second-place team in the AE. The game was tight for the first 30 minutes, with neither team able to establish a lead of more than six points, but that changed with just over six minutes to play, when redshirt senior guard Everett Duncan got hot. Duncan hit three key 3-pointers to help UVM pull away from the Seawolves (18-10, 9-4 AE) and win the game.
The Stony Brook game was the toughest contest on paper in AE play for Vermont this season, and it managed to come away with the victory, only to be denied the outright AE regular season title by a surging UMBC. Both teams were in striking distance of the other for most of the game, trading leads, until a 3-pointer by senior guard K. J. Jackson gave UMBC a seven-point advantage. Vermont subsequently cut the lead to two, but failed to score in the final 90 seconds, sealing the game in UMBC’s favor.
“A great effort by our guys,” said UMBC head coach Ryan Odom. “[It was a] high-level game on both sides. I’m really proud of the effort throughout the game. I thought our guys shot the ball extremely well … It was just back and forth throughout the game, and I thought our guys, in those tense moments where the game’s hanging in the balance, I thought our guys executed really well offensively.”
Though Vermont failed to win the AE outright against UMBC (14-14, 7-6 AE), it did ensure that it will at least win a share of the AE regular season title in its victory over Stony Brook. Furthermore, it would still take one more UVM win or one Stony Brook loss to hand the Catamounts its fourth straight regular season conference title.
UMBC, meanwhile, is arguably the hottest team in the conference now that Vermont has lost. Early in the season, the Retrievers were flirting with last place, but they have now won five straight and have rocketed up the AE standings. Their success, combined with the recent mediocre play of Hartford and Albany, gives them a realistic chance to finish as high as third, and an outside shot at finishing second.
AE basketball action continues on Wednesday, Feb. 26 for both the men and the women. For the men, New Hampshire travels to Maine, Albany visits UMass Lowell, Binghamton plays at UMBC and Stony Brook hosts Hartford. All games tip off at 7 p.m. On the women’s side, Maine at New Hampshire tips off at 6 p.m., while at 7 p.m. UMBC plays at Binghamton, UMass Lowell travels to Albany and Hartford hosts Stony Brook.