In a change of pace from earlier in the season, the middle of the America East conference showed some bite this past week, with a number of teams winning all of their games. Some were easier than others, but it’s a positive step. Unfortunately, the close losses for the top of the league, including two by Stony Brook, prevented it from being a banner week for the conference.
1. Vermont (7-5): Beating up Siena at home during the dedication of the Tom Brennan court and then going and losing a tough game to St. Bonaventure neatly sums up the Catamounts’ non-conference season. The record is quite deceptive because John Becker scheduled the 18th toughest slate in the country according to KenPom.
2. Albany (11-2): The Great Danes missed out on a great opportunity to get a quality win by starting slow out of the gate at Memphis. Then UA came home and survived an okay Canisius team.
3. Stony Brook (4-8): SBU dropped two tough games. The 3-point loss at home to Long Island rival Hofstra has to hurt. Stony Brook’s defense collapsed down the stretch as Justin Wright-Foreman took over. Wright-Foreman finished with 33 points. Jaron Cornish seems to be fitting better into the offense. The junior college transfer scored a team-high 22 points against the Pride. Then there was the game against Providence. The Seawolves went into the Dunkin Donuts Center and had an 11-point lead with under eight minutes to play, but just couldn’t hold on. Unfortunately a major conference team is going to get a foul call in their building on the final possession more times than not.
4. Binghamton (8-4): The win streak rolled on at Sacred Heart on Sunday with a 3-point win over the Pioneers, 51-48. JC Show scored 21 points and was the only Bearcat in double figures. Give credit to Tommy Dempsey’s squad for coming back from 14 points down on the road.
5. UMBC (8-5): A two-win week at home against Coppin St. and Northern Kentucky might not sound like much, but while the Eagles are winless this season, the Norsemen are a legitimate Horizon League contender. This could be a win that looks better and better.
6. UMass Lowell (6-5): UML beat Boston U. thanks to an excellent offensive performance that featured 9-21 shooting from distance. The River Hawks had assists on 72 percent of their baskets. This team has shown some explosiveness at home, tagging both Cornell and Loyola (MD) for more than 1.10 points per possession before dropping 1.20 on BU.
7. New Hampshire (3-8): The Wildcats scored 111 against Lydon St. Not much more to say about this one.
8. Hartford (5-6): John Gallagher’s squad is on a two-game home winning streak after defeating Sacred Heart last Monday, 86-72. Four Hawks finished in double figures in the win, with JR Lynch leading the way with 21 points. Travis Weatherington was a ridiculous 7-8 from the field, including 4-5 from 3, for 18 points.
9. Maine (3-9): Isaiah White scored 21 points, but it wasn’t enough to beat Saint Joseph’s. Maine had a 17-3 turnover differential and shot just 38 percent inside the arc in the loss.
Albany’s Travis Charles has emerged as one of the best players in America East. Charles scored just 7.9 ppg in 17.5 mpg last season as a junior. Now he’s scoring at will around the rim against mid-major opponents and averaging 14.9 ppg. Even though Charles is playing almost 11 more minutes per game this season he field goal percentage is exactly the same at 61.3 percent and his efficiency also hasn’t changed. Many players when thrust into a bigger role see some decline in efficiency, but the 6-foot-6 senior from Brooklyn has thrived in his new role and given the Great Danes a consistent third scoring option with David Nichols and Joe Cremo. Charles led UA with 24 points on 10-16 shooting against Canisius.
Matt Harris eclipsed the 1,000-point mark for his career in UMass Lowell’s victory over Boston University. Harris scored 27 points in the game thanks to shooting 4-7 from three and 11-12 from the free throw line. The senior point guard has played significant minutes since his freshman season. This season he’s getting to the free throw more regularly, giving him the opportunity to use one of his best skills, free throw shooting. Harris is a career 88 percent free throw shooter (177-202).
Player: Jairus Lyles, UMBC – The league office got this one right, as Lyles scored 27 points against Coppin State and 31 points against Northern Kentucky in two wins this week. Lyles was named the KenPom MVP of both games and added six rebounds against CSU and six assists against NKU, showing his versatility on the court. Also considered: Travis Charles, Albany; Anthony Lamb, Vermont; JC Show, Binghamton; Matt Harris, UMass Lowell
Freshman: Elijah Olaniyi, Stony Brook – Olaniyi had an excellent game in the loss to Hofstra, scoring 16 points. He didn’t score much against Providence, but did grab five rebounds. In a week where Stef Smith was literally his only competition, I’m giving it to the guy from Newark, NJ by a hair. Also considered: Stef Smith, Vermont
Albany plays at Louisville with a small chance for an upset. … Vermont hosts Quinnipiac and then takes a break until the new year. … Stony Brook plays at Rutgers. … Binghamton tries to keep its streak going, but has a much tougher game at Penn State on Tuesday. The Bearcats will host LIU Brooklyn on Friday. … New Hampshire plays at George Washington and Fairfield and has about a 50/50 shot of coming away with at least one win. … UMass Lowell hosts NEC surprise team Central Connecticut. … Hartfort plays at Portland and Florida International. … Maine goes to Central Connecticut and Massachusetts. … UMBC has the week off.