America East Basketball is Finally Back
The America East conference slate officially tipped off this past weekend. Six of the ten conference teams squared off against each other in what were some pretty enjoyable games. Hartford, Albany, Binghamton, UMBC, Stony Brook and Maine all saw action, while NJIT, New Hampshire, Vermont and UMass-Lowell had to wait just a little longer.
You can catch the Cats in action later today (5pm, ESPN3), but for now letâ€™s delve into the weekend slate of games. Spoiler alert – there were no series splits.
Hartford vs Maine
Well this was a surprise. Hartford is one of the better teams in the America East, while Maine isâ€¦ a team. Suffice to say, Hartford came dangerously close to an inexcusable early season upset. Luckily for the Hawks they were able to pull out the win, as Hunter â€œMakerâ€ Marks said pour me a shot and buried the game-winning three-pointer as time expired.
The Black Bears looked surprisingly competent and even led the Hawks with under a minute left in regulation. Sadly, Maine couldnâ€™t quite hold on, as Hunter Marks stole the show with two late threes and sent the Cinderella Black Bears back in hibernation.
Hartfordâ€™s Traci Carter led all scorers with 15 and Marks added another 11 for the Hawks. Every member of the Hawks was able to find their way into the box score – an impressive feat and good sign of team balance. Adefolalrin Adetogun (who?) paced Maine with 14 points and Lechaun DuHart chipped in another 13. Granted it was their first game and they wanted to shake some rust off, but Maine went with a deep 13 man rotation for the game.
Sundayâ€™s match-up was more in-line with what we all expected. Hartford had much more control throughout the game, leading to a comfortable 15 point win for the Hawks. Maine looked flat and didnâ€™t have anywhere close to the same type of high-flying energy that they showed on Saturday. Back to the drawing board for the Black Bears.
Again it was the depth and balance of Hartford that was on display. D.J. Mitchell and Rastislav Sipkovsky led the way for the Hawks off the bench and poured in a combined 38 off the bench. Mitchellâ€™s 21 points were a career high, as he was brilliant from deep all game finishing 6-8 from beyond the arc.
Maine didnâ€™t go as deep into their bench this time round, but maybe they should have? Vilgot Larsson was the only Black Bear to reach double-figures, mustering a pedestrian 11 points. The good news for Maine is that they covered game one and as the old saying goes, â€œgood teams win, great teams cover.â€ Well, maybe not.
Stony Brook vs Binghamton
Meh. Nothing too exciting out of this one. Binghamton has played spoiler to Stony Brook in the past, so it wouldnâ€™t have come as a huge shock if the Bearcats had been able to upset Stony Brook, but this game was seemingly never in doubt for the Seawolves.
Frankie Policelli led the way for Stony Brook with 15 points, slicing up Binghamton’s under-cooked and greasy defense. Alright Frankie, how do you rate the Bearcats defense? Mhm I give them a 5.9. Oof thatâ€™s bad pizza, I mean defense. Tykei Greene would add another 15 for the Seawolves.
Tyler Bertram paced Binghamton with 12 points off the bench, but no other Bearcat was able to reach double-figures, as Binghamton looked out-matched throughout the game. Back to the cellar Binghamton goes.
Ok now this was better! Binghamton showed signs of life and played with much more conviction following their blowout loss on Saturday. With two minutes left in regulation the game was knotted up, yet both teams decided to showcase their best Chip and Joanna impression as they threw up brick after brick. Stony Brook used a 16-6 run in overtime to finally knock off Binghamton.
Frankie Policelli and Tykei Greene once again led the way for the Seawolves with 16 points apiece. Omar Habwe (14), Juan Felix Rodriguez (14) and Mo Gueye (10) each reached double-figures as well for the Seawolves.
Binghamton was much better offensively on the second go-round. George Tinsely poured in 16 points, while Brenton Mills (14), Dan Petcash (14) and Ogheneyole Akuwovo (10) all reached double-figures as well. Side note – can we get some more Smithâ€™s and Johnsonâ€™s into the America East? My spellcheck is going to have a heart attack with the likes of Ogheneyole and Adefolalrin.
UMBC vs Albany
Well, well well. Looks like someone nailed their America East game of the week(end) prediction. Both of these games were fantastic and exactly what you love to see out of a college basketball game. Saturdayâ€™s contest was a back-and-forth affair, as Albanyâ€™s Antonio Rizzuto tried his best to channel his inner Peter Hooley, but came up just short on his game-winning attempt from deep.
It was a tight game throughout, but UMBC was able to do just enough to secure their first conference win of the season. Brandon Horvath continues to play at a high level, leading all scorers with 18 points. R.J. Eytle-Rock and Darnell Rogers each chipped in 14 for the Retrievers.
Antonio â€œVitoâ€ Rizzutoâ€™s mob ties wouldâ€™ve made him a real Goodfella had he sunk that game-winner, as now all of Long Island is saying â€œWhy did you do that Karen?!â€. Rizzuto paced the Danes with 14 points off the bench, as Cam Healy (13) and C.J. Kelly (10) each reached the double-figure mark.
*Antonio Rizzuto has no affiliation with any criminal organizations. That was just my Chris Berman impression.
Another great wire-to-wire game. Albany actually looked like they were going to pull out the victory and even the series with UMBC, but a strong second half surge was just enough for the Retrievers to prove that theyâ€™re the top dogs in America East.
This is a talented and well-balanced UMBC team, but it was Horvath once again who stole the show with a career-high 27 point outburst. Horvath looks much improved from a year ago, as his soft touch around the rim has become a huge part of his offensive outbreak. The big man down-low, Daniel Akin, polished off a double-double with 10 points and 12 rebounds for the Retrievers.
The Danes offense was more spread out with Rizzuto (11), Kellon Taylor (11) and Jamel Horton (10) each reaching double-figures. The Danes might have been able to escape with a victory had it not been for the poor shooting from their star guard, Cam Healy (3 points, 1-9 shooting). Healy was known to be a streaky shooter last year and apparently the story remains the same for the talented Aussie.
Unrelated, but not sure who had the better look in this match-up, UMBCâ€™s Keondre Kennedy or Albanyâ€™s Adam Lulka. Kennedy had two almost side ponytails – an ode to Helga Pataki no doubt. Lulka meanwhile was dealing with a broken nose and played with a make-shift face mask. Dude was straight out of the WWF channeling his inner Mankind. Loved both looks, please keep rocking them.