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America East Notebook

January 15, 2004 Conference Notes No Comments

America East Notebook

by Adam Reich

Vermont’s Finest

Junior forward Taylor Coppenrath continues to shine for the first-place Catamounts. Last year’s America East Player of the Year, Coppenrath has emerged as one of the best players in the country. Most college basketball enthusiasts have never heard his name because he plays his home games in a 3200 seat arena in Burlington, Vermont. However, things are about to change. Having already received national recognition from the likes of ESPN’s Andy Katz and Dick Vitale, as well as Sports Illustrated, Coppenrath should start preparing for the spotlight.

Coppenrath’s epic 41-point performance against Northeastern last week was yet another example of how special he is to his team and his home state. Vermont has undergone a dramatic change during Coppenrath’s brief tenure in the home green and gold. What was once a smaller version of Hockeytown USA; Burlington has been transformed into a hoops heaven for the locals who now come out in droves. And Coppenrath adds to this new legacy every time he steps on the court.

The consummate team player, Coppenrath remains modest when asked about his accomplishments. You’ll never see the junior standout talking himself up, but rather letting his play do the talking for him, like when he torched UCLA for 38 points earlier this season. After that performance, UCLA coach Ben Howland was asked about the Catamount forward. “We had no answer for Coppenrath”, he said straightforward.

If Coppenrath played in the Pac-10 or any other major conference for that matter, we would likely hear his name with regularity. He might make appearances on Sports Center or be on the cover of Street and Smith. But instead he remains buried beneath the snowy scenery of Vermont where until recently only the locals knew of his exploits. Like I said, things are about to change.

Albany (3-10, 1-3) ended a four-game losing skid by knocking off UNH 57-52 last Thursday. In that game, freshman sensation Jon Iati continued his stellar play, netting a career-best 23 points. The win was the Great Danes’ first on the road since they tackled the Wildcats in the regular season finale a year ago. Albany put up a fight against Northeastern Sunday, but wound up on the losing end of a 77-70 contest. Against the Huskies, junior forward Aquawasi St. Hillaire tallied a career-high nineteen points on 9-of-12 shooting. St. Hillaire has played brilliantly as of late for coach Will Brown’s squad, averaging nearly twelve points and seven boards per contest over the last month. Sophomore forward Levi Levine remains the quiet leader of this young team, averaging 16.8 points and 6.5 rebounds per game this season.

Binghamton (5-9, 1-2) cruised past previously unbeaten Maine last Wednesday night 60-46 at the friendly confines of West Gym. The Bearcats, who lead the conference in rebounding margin, dominated the glass against the Black Bears, outrebounding them 46-24. Seven Bearcats recorded at least four boards, led by Alex Adediran’s nine rebounds in only nineteen minutes of action. Maine, who has shot the ball well all season, was limited to only 6-of-22 shooting in the second half by a stingy Bearcat defense. A late Binghamton comeback came up just a bit short against BU Saturday afternoon, as the Terriers squeezed out a 63-59 victory. Trailing by thirteen points with just over eleven minutes remaining, the Bearcats mounted a comeback. After tying the game at 59 with under a minute left, a Chaz Carr follow-up jumper put BU ahead to stay. Nick Billings, Brandon Carter and Adediran all scored in double figures in the loss.

Boston University (10-3, 4-0) won a pair of games last week to remain undefeated in America East play. The Terriers were victorious on the road at Hartford 59-48 last Wednesday and edged Binghamton 63-59 at “The Roof” Saturday. BU has now won ten straight games, the school’s longest winning streak since the 1996-97 season. Guard Chaz Carr led the Terriers with sixteen points versus the Hawks and Rashad Bell racked up another double-double with twelve points and ten boards. BU nearly gave away a thirteen-point lead late in their game versus Binghamton. However, with the score tied at 59 BU guard Chaz Carr followed his own miss with a foul line jumper that put the Terriers ahead. A pair of free throws by Jason Grochowalski, who is now a perfect 16-of-16 from the stripe this season, sealed the win. Ryan Butt led the team with eighteen points, while sophomore guard Shaun Winn contributed a career-best seventeen.

Hartford (4-7, 0-3) continued its slide by dropping games to BU and UMBC last week. Struggling to find a rhythm due to injuries, the Hawks have fallen on hard times. In a 59-48 loss to the Terriers, Hartford held a three-point lead at the half before BU heated up. Ryan Stys, who is the only one of coach Larry Harrison’s players to start every game this season, paced the team with fourteen points. Although the Hawks were beaten badly by UMBC 78-54 Saturday afternoon, there were some promising performances. Freshman forward Bo Taylor came off the bench to score eighteen points, while freshman Alex Zimnickas tallied thirteen points in a season-high 34 minutes. It has been announced that all-conference selection Jerell Parker, who tore the quadriceps tendon in his right knee, will now miss the rest of the season.

Maine (8-5, 2-2) dropped a pair of conference games last week to even their America East mark at 2-2. The Black Bears suffered from poor second-half shooting in falling to Binghamton 60-46 last Wednesday. In that contest Maine shot 32.7% for the game. The Black Bears made only 6-of-22 second-half field goals, including an abysmal 1-of-14 from beyond the arc. Chris Markwood and Eric Dobson each had eleven points to lead the team. On Sunday, Maine let a halftime lead slip away in a 71-62 loss to Vermont. UVM went on a 17-5 run after the intermission and never looked back. After shooting 14-of 23 in the opening stanza, the Black Bears once again went cold in the second-half, hitting on only 2-of-11 three-point attempts. Dobson was again the Black Bears go-to-guy, pouring in twenty points on 7-of-11 shooting. Eric Reed notched seventeen points in the loss, while Mark Flavin added thirteen.

Maryland Baltimore-County (5-8, 2-2) fell to Stony Brook last Wednesday night, but rebounded by rolling past Hartford on Saturday. The Retrievers held an eight point lead at the half, but a 18-8 Seawolves run to open the second-half helped Stony Brook pull away for a 61-56 victory. In the loss, four Retrievers were in double figures led by Kareem Washington’s fourteen points. UMBC committed an uncharacteristic eighteen turnovers, while dishing out a season low nine assists. Coach Tom Sullivan’s team quickly erased any memory of Wednesday’s loss by storming Hartford 78-54. Washington continued his superb play in America East competition, scoring 23 points. The senior guard is averaging 19.8 points per game in four conference games. Sophomore forward John Zito added a career-high 21 points on 8-of-12 shooting, while junior point guard Rob Gogerty, who is second in America East in assists, dished out six dimes.

New Hampshire (4-10, 0-4) is still in search of its first conference victory after losing a pair of close contest last week. On Thursday night Albany came to Durham and walked away with a 57-52 win. UNH, who trailed by as many as twelve in the second-half, cut the Great Danes’ lead to two at 50-48 with 3:33 to play. However, Albany converted at the line down the stretch to hold on for the win. Junior Craig Walls led the Wildcats with a team-high fourteen points and eight rebounds. UNH suffered a heartbreaking loss Saturday at Stony Brook as Cori Spencer scored off an offensive rebound at the buzzer to lead Stony Brook to a 62-60 win. The Wildcats shooting woes continued as they knocked down only 9-of-27 shots in the second half. Marcus Bullock had a team-high ten points while Walls contributed nine points and nine boards.

Northeastern (9-6, 3-1) put up a tough fight but fell to Vermont 88-78 last Wednesday in Burlington. The high-scoring game was played at a frenetic pace just as the Huskies like it. Early on NU took advantage of its speed and depth, opening up a 39-33 lead at the break. However, Taylor Coppenrath exploded in the second-half for Vermont, while coach Everhart’s team shot only 4-of-22 from beyond the arc in the second stanza. Junior Marcus Barnes knocked down a school record eight three-pointers and finished with a team-high 33 points in the loss. The Huskies improved their conference mark to 3-1 on Sunday by knocking off Albany 77-70 at Solomon Court. After a slow start, NU took over the game by converting 15-of-16 free throws in the second-half. Jose Juan Barea, who went 9-of-9 from the charity stripe, led the Huskies with twenty points. Freshman Bennet Davis, making his first career start, poured in sixteen points on 7-of-8 shooting from the floor.

Stony Brook (5-8, 2-2) came from behind to beat UMBC 61-56 at home last Wednesday night. Cori Spencer dropped in a game-high seventeen points, including several hoops in a 18-8 run to begin the second half. Off the bench, junior forward Mike Orfini grabbed a career-best fourteen rebounds. Spencer was again in the spotlight in the Seawolves’ 62-60 victory against UNH. With the game knotted at 60, the junior forward put back an offensive rebound at the buzzer for the win. The Seawolves again trailed at the half, but 55% shooting after halftime fueled yet another successful comeback. Spencer finished with a game-high 21 points on 6-of-8 shooting from the field and 9-of-11 from the line. D.J. Munir added sixteen for Stony Brook, who has evened its conference record at 2-2.

Vermont (7-5, 4-0) won a pair of games last week to remain undefeated in America East play. Last Wednesday, the Catamounts outlasted Northeastern 88-78 in what was a hard-fought game. UVM trailed 39-33 at the half due in large part to the hot shooting of Marcus Barnes and the Huskies. However, in the second half junior forward Taylor Coppenrath took over the game. Last year’s America East Player of the Year put on an All-American display, scorching the Huskies for a career-high 41 points on 18-of-23 shooting. As a team, the Catamounts shot 57% and outrebounded Northeastern 44-35. UVM continued its stellar play by defeating Maine 71-62 in Orono Sunday. The Black Bears managed to hold Coppenrath to just eleven points on 4-of-11 shooting. However, guard T.J. Sorrentine finally broke out of his shooting slump by scoring nineteen points, including a trio of three-pointers. Freshman Martin Klimes provided a spark off the bench for coach Brennan’s squad, contributing thirteen points in seventeen minutes.

Game of the Week

In a battle of the league’s only two unbeaten teams, Vermont travels to Boston University Saturday at 1:00 pm. The best rivalry in the conference has additional fuel after the Catamounts knocked off the Terriers in last season’s America East Championship. The winner of this contest takes a giant step toward attaining the top seed in this year’s conference tournament.


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