The America East kicked off the ultimate week of college basketball in 2020, and it was surely one Monday to remember. Major favorites falling, new teams in the league winning, stupid fouls late, and so, so much more.
Play would open in Baltimore, where the UMBC Retrievers were riding high off a seven-game winning streak and facing down the Binghampton Bearcats.
Last year, both games were insanity, including a missed call at the buzzer, giving the Bearcats (who did not even make the America East Playoffs) a season sweep over the Retrievers.
Binghamton played the Retrievers close on Sunday, never letting them take a double-digit lead, even though they eventually fell to UMBC.
On Monday, the Retrievers were without reigning America East Player of the Week, Brandon Horvath, as he picked up a shoulder injury. He was in a sling, but after leaving the game early on Sunday in concern, he played the remainder of the game and went off for 20 points.
The majority of the first half was all UMBC, but the 0-6 Bearcats were red hot from deep, hitting 15 from behind the arc for the game. Along with this, they held the rebound advantage, 45-26.
On the offensive end of that stat, Binghamton won it 15-3. Not good if you were rooting for the Retrievers.
Binghamton pulled off the upset victory, 75-69, notching their first win on the year. The Bearcats were 12.5-point underdogs, and at around +650 on the money line. This was a 340 vs 188 upset on KenPom. Insanity to start the week.
A couple of hundred miles north, in Durham, New Hampshire, two of the America East darlings from a season ago faced off: New Hampshire and Hartford.
This was just not a good offensive game. The Hawks finished the game shooting 11-44 (25%) from the field, and the Wildcats shot a not-so-much better 19-55 (34.5) from the field.
But wait… a combined 30 field goals made for 104 points? Yeah, about that: there were 50 free throws attempted and 34 made. A clinic in literally the only arena I have ever been to where I’ve seen a shooting clinic for kids.
With 23 seconds left, Marque Maultsby missed a three for the win and it was Hartford ball. After a timeout, Moses Flowers would drive into the lane, missing a layup. But the Wildcats fouled him.
Flowers would go to the charity stripe and make one of two. As the second one bounced off the rim, New Hampshire’s best player, Nick Guadarrama rebounded it. Miroslav Stafl would (stupidly) run over to him and foul him.
Guadarrama made both free throws, and Traci Carter would miss the game-winning jumper at the buzzer. UNH would move to 2-0 on the weekend.
Hartford misses a second free throw that would give them a 52-51 lead. It’s now tied.— Nick Lorensen (@nlorensensports) December 28, 2020
Instead, they miss it and foul Nick Guadarrama. Quite possibly UNH’s best player.
He makes both at the line, moving the Wildcats to 2-0 in America East play. pic.twitter.com/8eIGAQjM9V
But if those two weren’t crazy enough for you, we are going to head northwest on I-89 to Burlington, Vermont.
The Catamounts were coming off a dominating, 92-78 win against NJIT on Sunday where they led by as much as 22.
Earlier in the week, the league favorite went into Lowell and lost to UMass-Lowell in their opening game. They did not want to split another series, but NJIT wasn’t going to make that easy for the Cats.
Forty-five minutes were played, and no team wanted to pull away. Going into double overtime, NJIT junior Souleymane Diakite had already made a name for himself. The kid from Mali finished the day with a career-high 20 points, along with 12 rebounds, good for his sixth-ever collegiate double double.
After a Diego Willis foul with eight seconds remaining, Ryan Davis went to the line to take an 80-79 lead for the four-time reigning America East regular-season champion, Catamounts.
The Highlanders would take the ball past half court and have a little over five seconds to draw something up.
It all started with Dylan O’Hearn, who was an iron man off the bench. In his 40th total minute, he would drive in the lane, trying to add to his team-high 26 points. But he slipped!
From there, it was a behind-the-back pass to Diego Willis. Willis would airball that shot, but luckily, San Antonio Wilson was right under the basket to put it in.
Unreal game-winner for NJIT: pic.twitter.com/8MzMzSo3ph— Kevin Sweeney (@CBB_Central) December 28, 2020
The Highlanders picked up their first win in the America East in dramatic fashion against the giant of the league. Not all of them are going to be like this, Highlanders.
With no clear dominant player for Vermont, this league is going to be fun this year. Loads of chaos, just as we saw on Monday afternoon.