America East Weekly Recap: Battling Bearcats Edition

Welcome to another America East weekly recap! The top of the conference took a few losses this past week, but other teams showed some improvements.

Power Rankings:

1. Vermont (6-2): A loss at Bucknell, the presumed Patriot League favorite, is nothing to be ashamed about. Anthony Lamb scored 20 points against the Bison, but he took 18 shots to get there (and also committed three turnovers).

2. Albany (8-1): The Great Danes played three games this week. They took their first loss of the season at Monmouth, but the Hawks might be the best team in the MAAC. Albany had a comfortable 9-point lead at halftime, and then the Hawks clamped down and pulled away behind freshman point guard Ray Salnave. Albany finished the week by hosting Colgate and Columbia. The game against the Lions was a bit of a head scratcher. Will Brown’s team was up three at halftime, but down going into the final minutes. Thankfully David Nichols saved the Great Danes by scoring 29 points on 21 shots, including some big ones down the stretch. Joe Cremo was also excellent on the night he was honored for scoring 1,000 points. He dropped 25 points.

3. Stony Brook (3-5): Some how Stony Brook withstood Saint Francis U. shooting 15-24 (62.5 percent) from three to take home a victory on Saturday. The Seawolves got the winning basket thanks to a sideline out of bounds play by Jeff Boals that Akwasi Yeboah and Tyrell Sturdivant executed perfectly. Yeboah faked his man on the wing, drove into the paint and found a wide open Sturdivant for the easy layup. Yeboah also led the Seawolves with 19 points (on 7-8 shooting) in the game.

4. UMBC (5-4): Despite playing without Jairus Lyles the Retrievers managed to split two games in Charleston, SC over the weekend. After losing to Army 81-70, UMBC came back and stomped The Citadel 98-72 behind 21 points from K.J. Maura. Sophomore forward Max Curran also had a double-double in the game with 13 points and 10 rebounds. Lyles is apparently in concussion protocol.

5. Binghamton (5-4): The Bearcats throttled Delaware State on Wednesday night, 85-64, thanks to a balanced scoring effort. DSU is one of the worst Division I teams in the country, but blowouts are never easy and the Bearcats ran away with it early, building a 17-point lead by halftime. Tommy Dempsey’s squad then backed it up with a comfortable 11-point home victory over Colgate. Thomas Bruce scored 26 points and J.C. Show added 19.

6. UMass Lowell (5-3): The River Hawks are in a bit of a slump after losing to Sacred Heart and NJIT this past week. Defense was an issue in both games. Sacred Heart scored 1.09 ppp and NJIT 1.08. Jahad Thomas scored 22 points in 30 minutes against Sacred Heart, but landed awkwardly with 7:20 remaining. He didn’t play in the loss to NJIT. As one of the best players in America East, the River Hawks obviously need him healthy for the first weekend in January.

7. New Hampshire (2-6): The Wildcats earned their first victory over a Division I team by beating a struggling Bryant squad by 16 points at home. Tanner Leissner scored 19 points and grabbed 12 rebounds to lead the way. Leissner has heated up lately. He’s been named the KenPom MVP in three of UNH’s last four games, including Wednesday’s tight home loss to Boston U.

8. Maine (1-7): Yes, Maine’s offense has been terrible, but the Black Bears are showing some teeth on defense. Bob Walsh’s team went to overtime at Fordham and lost by just one point. The Black Bears committed 17 turnovers in 75 possessions, but Fordham is a feisty defensive team. Aaron Calixte had 20 points, but also six turnovers against the Rams.

9. Hartford (3-6): The Hawks played an unusual home game against Boston College from the ACC. Hartford trailed by just one point at halftime, but couldn’t pull out the victory. John Carroll scored 20 points in that game, but also committed seven turnovers. Hartford also lost a heart-breaker earlier in the week at LIU Brooklyn. The Hawks tied the game at 78 on a Travi Weatherington three with five seconds remaining, but fouled Joel Hernandez on the ensuing possession. He hit one to give the Blackbirds a 79-78 victory.

Player of the Week: David Nichols, Albany — Nichols carried the Great Danes down the stretch against Columbia and scored 58 points in three games. He also had 10 rebounds and 10 assists this week. Others: Tanner Leissner, UNH; Iba Camara, UNH; Anthony Lamb, Vermont; Aaron Calixte, Maine

Rookie of the Week: Elijah Olaniyi, Stony Brook — Olaniyi tied his season high with 16 points on just nine shots against Shawnee State. He then followed it up with 13 points against Saint Francis U. Others: Brandon Horvath, UMBC; Max Portmann, UMBC

Are there cracks in Vermont’s armor? Yes, losing at Bucknell isn’t a big deal, but it’s worth noting that Vermont allowed 1.18 points per possession during that game and has now allowed more than a point per possession in three of its eight games, including the two losses and the game at Yale. The offense seems to be at about the same level as it was a season ago, but teams are finding more room to operate in the paint on offense. After blocking 11.4 percent of opponent two-point shots a season ago, the Catamounts are only getting to about half that (6.5 percent) thus far in 2017. The quality mid-majors Vermont has played—Northern Kentucky, Yale and Bucknell—have all shot at least 57 percent on two-point attempts. Both Albany and Stony Brook appear to be well positioned to take advantage of that weakness during America East play.

Might Binghamton actually be decent this season? The Bearcats are currently ranked 224th in KenPom, which is the highest rating they’ve had at the beginning of December during the Tommy Dempsey era. BU has legitimate scorers in J.C. Show and Thomas Bruce along with a number of complementary pieces, such as Willie Rodriguez, Timmy Rose and Fard Muhammed. Binghamton has done all of this while getting a little unlucky defensively along the three-point arc (opponents are shooting an unsustainable 41.6 percent from deep). Binghamton’s horrendous 61.6 percent free throw shooting could still cost the Bearcats a close game or two, but signs point towards a much more competitive Binghamton team in 2018.

The Week Ahead: Vermont goes to Milwaukee for a shootout with Marquette on Tuesday and then plays at Northeastern. … Albany hosts stumbling Bryant and then plays cross-town rival Siena. … Stony Brook comes into the five boroughs for games against LIU Brooklyn (Monday) and Columbia (Thursday). NYC Buckets will have coverage of both games. … UMBC goes on the road to Delaware State (winnable) and Towson (much harder). … Binghamton plays two toss-up games against Army and Loyola (MD). … New Hampshire hosts Niagara and heads to Holy Cross. … UMass Lowell visits Wagner and Brown. … Maine has a 3-game week at home, including two non-Division I opponents. … Hartford plays just one game this week, a winnable home game against Quinnipiac.

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