Stony Brook enters a place where they have yet to win a regular season game since 2010 on Saturday at Vermont, but they will be boasting the nation’s longest win streak.
That and their two-game lead in the America East standings are enough motivation for Vermont senior Ethan O’Day, who helped lead the Catamounts to a two-game regular season sweep of the Seawolves last season.
“I get up for that game a little bit more knowing how great a team they are and especially this year,” O’Day said. “[I] feel confident just knowing I get to play against [Jameel] Warney and certainly some of the best players in the conference is something to get up for, not just me, but for all the guys. I’m going to be ready to go tomorrow.”
Last season’s chase for an America East title for the Catamounts ended at the hands of the Seawolves at Patrick Gym, but the key reason the two were playing in March in Vermont was thanks to O’Day. His team-high 17 points on Feb. 7 of last year helped propel Vermont from down 17 points to a nine-point win at Island Federal Credit Union Arena to secure the sweep.
“He was unbelievable, maybe the best game of his career,” head coach John Becker said of O’Day’s second half against the Seawolves last year. “I think he has confidence against Stony Brook. He’s played really well against them and, as tough as it is for us to guard Warney on the inside, it’s been a challenge for them to guard Ethan away from the basket.”
O’Day led the way in their first meeting last season with 16 points and nine rebounds and at 6’9” may have the height advantage on Stony Brook’s big men like Warney and Ray McGrew, but is also versatile enough to drive the ball against them from 12 feet out.
“I think we try to just run our ball screen offense and then try to attack them in space at times,” O’Day said. “I think that’s where we’ve been successful in games, getting in pick and pop situations and moving off of those, also not only attacking space but mixing up deep post ups with that. I think that’s where we’ve seen success scoring in the paint with them in the past few years here.”
With UAB losing to Western Kentucky on the road last night, Stony Brook now boasts the nation’s longest win streak at 12 games, something the Catamounts will look to erase on Saturday afternoon.
Vermont will also get an added boost on Saturday when Josh Speidel, who was last with the team on their trip at Purdue, will be on the Catamounts bench thanks to a waiver from the NCAA.
“He’s such a high spirited kid and we love having him around,” O’Day said. “Having him up for these next couple of games is going to be awesome, just having him on the bench, he’s definitely an inspiration to us.”
Ryan Restivo wrote the America East conference preview for the 2015-16 Blue Ribbon College Basketball Yearbook. He covers the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, the America East conference among others for Big Apple Buckets. You can follow Ryan on Twitter @ryanarestivo or contact Ryan at rrestivo[at]nycbuckets.com.