Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Black Bears 65, Columbia 59

Sean McNally (16 points, 7 rebounds) and Terrance Mitchell (14 points) led four Black Bears in double figures as UMaine rallied in the second half. Freshman Murphy Burnatowski registered 11 points and four rebounds and Gerald McLemore added 12 in the foul plagued game.

A total of 48 personal fouls were whistled with UMaine going 27 of 38 from the line. Columbia was 23 for 30 on freebies.

The Black Bears move to 6-5 on the season. With two non-conference games remaining (at Boston College Saturday and Princeton Monday at Alfond), UMaine will have a chance to finish above .500 going into its America East opener Jan. 7 vs. Vermont.

Top 10 Black Bears of the Decade

10. Justin Rowe
9. Errick Greene
8. Huggy Dye
7. Rickey White
6. Joe Campbell
5. Julian Dunkley
4. Eric Dobson
3. Nate Fox


No. 2
CARVEL AMMONS (00-01)
Despite foul problems, Ammons was leading a UMaine charge and the Black Bears were threatening to overtake Hofstra in the semifinals of the 2001 America East tournament. Then, with one toot of the whistle, the momentum was blunted and the threat was over. What Hofstra couldn't do (stop Ammons down low), an official took care of with a dubious (at best) offensive foul call, sending the Ammons to the bench. The defender was almost below the hoop and moved himself under Ammons as he rose nearly straight up for one of his patented post moves. At 6-6, 190 pounds, Ammons had a nearly unstoppable left-handed, half-hook, half-flip move and was a tough rebounder. He averaged 15.5 points and 8 rebounds a game in his final season. A fierce competitor, Ammons was one of three Black Bears to make first team All-America East during the decade. His fiery play was fun to witness.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Top 10 Black Bears of the Decade

10. Justin Rowe
9. Errick Greene
8. Huggy Dye
7. Rickey White
6. Joe Campbell
5. Julian Dunkley

No. 4
ERIC DOBSON (03-04)
Players today should watch some film of Eric Dobson. What they'd find is a player who left it all on the floor every time he played. I remember being told, "Eric doesn't know he isn't that good a shooter," explaining his ability to take and hit the big shot despite modest shooting percentages. Dobson, a power-packed 6-3, 195 pounds, had offers to play high D1 football, but he loved basketball and followed his heart. Fitting, because he showed so much heart in some big, big games as a Black Bear. If only every player could summon his will to win. He spearheaded the Black Bears to their last conference title game appearance, averaging 13 points, 6 assists and 4 rebounds a game.

No. 3
NATE FOX (99-00)
Nasty. That's one word for the chip Nate Fox played with. It worked well for the 6-8, 240-pound ruffian. He never shied away from rough stuff inside, but he could step outside and tear an opponents heart out with terrific accuracy. Check out his UMaine numbers: 18 points a game, 58 percent from the floor, 42 percent from the arc, 78 percent from the line, 8 rebounds a game. One of those players you knew was coming to play. Starting to see a common thread among my finalists?

Monday, December 28, 2009

Top 10 Black Bears of the Decade

10. Justin Rowe
9. Errick Greene
8. Huggy Dye
7. Rickey White

No. 6
JOE CAMPBELL (02-05)
He wasn't the biggest, he wasn't the strongest, yet there was Joe Campbell, always fighting, scratching and clawing every minute he was on the floor. During his freshman year, in a game at UNH, I remember seeing Joe dive headlong on the floor in a crowded lane to come up with a crucial loose ball. At that moment, I knew he was going to help the Black Bears. He's the kind of player every team needs, selfless and productive. He earned his way onto the floor and then he never gave it up. He's also remembered for hitting a clutch shot late in the Black Bears' last conference tournament win in 2005. Add the fact he was quite possibly my kids' favorite Black Bear of all time and he gets a slot in my Top 10. Over his final two seasons, the 6-7, 190-pound forward from Bangor averaged 9 points and 7 rebounds a game.

No. 5
JULIAN DUNKLEY (00-01)
Right at the top of the list of the most talented UMaine players of the decade. At 6-10, he was comfortable moving outside and dropping shots from all over the floor, yet he was a solid rebounder, too. A smooth operator that could also attack the hoop. In other words, a tough cover for the opposition. Posted a stellar senior season with averages of 17 points and 7 rebounds a game. A 37-percent 3-point shooter, 48 percent from the floor and 80-percent from the foul line. A nice, nice package. And for the record: I preferred the 'fro over the braids. Always thought he played best with the Ben Wallace look.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Top 10 Black Bears of the 2000s

10.) Justin Rowe
9.) Errick Greene

No. 8
HUGGY DYE (99-01)
The mercurial guard gets a mention despite the disappointing and premature end to his days in Orono. His sensational talent was sometimes overshadowed by his tempermental ways, but there was no doubting his ability. He was one of those occasional athletes who leave a legacy of "what ifs." What if he had stayed out of trouble? What if he had dedicated himself more? What if, what if, what if. So, you ask, how can he be in my Top 10? Because he was fun to watch for three years and had a skill level that should have put him closer to No. 1 on this list. The 6-2 guard averaged 13 points a game for his career and shot 47 percent from the floor and 37 percent from deep. For two years, he was one half of the best UMaine backcourt of the decade.

No. 7
RICKEY WHITE (01-03)
Many folks forget that Rickey, fresh off setting the America East season record for shooting percentage (.662) his junior year, was expected to be a mainstay of the 2003-04 team that went 20-10 and advanced to the conference championship game before losing to Vermont. He never got on the court for his final year because of off-the-court issues. The 6-4 forward out of Topsham was an explosive player around the hoop and was primed for a bust-out campaign after averaging 13.2 points and 5 rebounds as a junior.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Top 10 Black Bears of the 2000s

Only five days left in the 2 aughts, a perfect time for reflection on the 10-year rollercoaster ride of Black Bears basketball. Early in the decade was memorable for a pair of America East championship game appearances and some great battles with Delaware, Hofstra and Drexel before they departed to the CAA. More recently the memories are of yearly struggles to recapture that competitive standing in a league now dominated by the likes of Albany, Vermont and Boston U.

For the next five days, I'll count down my Top Ten Black Bears from 2000-2009.

No. 10
JUSTIN ROWE (02-03)
Some fans around America East didn't appreciate Justin, much of it because of his, shall we say, quirky offensive game. But there was no denying his defensive ability was a key factor for a couple good Black Bears teams. In two years the 7-footer broke the school blocked shot record, using superior timing and an ability to get off the floor quickly. It just never translated to much of an offensive game. Justin's career numbers were 11 points, 9 rebounds and 4 blocks a game. Those of us who watched him game-in and game-out appreciated his intensity and devotion to the team.

No. 9
ERRICK GREENE (00-02)
Injuries hampered Greene throughout his career, but the gritty 6-3 guard was a productive and tough presence for the Black Bears. For opposing defenders, he was a nasty cover on the block. A solid all-around player who didn't mind taking big shots. Averaged 16 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists and 2 steals a game his senior year. Oh, yeah, and he shot 48 percent from the floor for his career. Probably should have him a little higher on the list. Played with heart.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Princeton game rescheduled

The Princeton game, postponed Dec. 20 because of the snowstorm that belted the mid-Atlantic seaboard, has been rescheduled for Jan. 4. Gametime at Alfond Arena is set for 7 p.m. The contest will be sandwiched between the game at Boston College (Jan. 2) and the America East opener vs. Vermont (Jan. 7).

UConn 71, Black Bears 54

Eleventh-ranked UConn broke free from the pesky Black Bears midway through the final half behind the play of Jerome Dyson (27 points). UMaine had battled the Huskies to a 26-all standoff in the first half.

Terrance Mitchell paced UMaine with 13 points. Gerald McLemore had 10. Seeing his first action of the season, junior forward Malachi Peay had seven points, two rebounds, two steals and two assists. Sean McNally had nine points and six rebounds.

On Dec. 2, UConn defeated America East favorite Boston U. by 28 points, 92-64.

Earlier this season, the Black Bears had absorbed a 101-55 loss at Syracuse. Playing yet another heavyweight Big East foe, however, the game had a different storyline as UConn did not take a double-digit lead until about the 12-minute mark of the second half.

For highlights, click here.

Photos.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Game 10

Black Bears (5-4) at UConn (7-2)
Tuesday, Dec. 22, 7 p.m.
Gampel Pavilion, Storrs, Conn.

The second of three "money" games for the Black Bears. UMaine visits old Yankee Conference friend, Connecticut, which now plays in the professional level of D1 hoops. UMaine will attempt to be closer at halftime than the 48-point deficit it faced at Syracuse.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Princeton game postponed

Princeton's first-ever appearance in Maine will have to wait. Because of the snowstorm pounding the Mid-Atlantic states Saturday, the Tigers could not make their scheduled flight north. According to the Princeton website, bus travel was not an option, either.

No makeup date has been announced.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Game 10

Princeton (5-4) at Black Bears (5-4)
Sunday, Dec. 20, 2 p.m.
Alfond Arena, Orono

The Tigers have won three straight heading into Sunday's game at Alfond. It'll be the first time Princeton has played at UMaine. Ten years ago, the Tigers played Ohio University in Nova Scotia.

The Black Bears hold a 1-0 lead in the all-time series with Princeton.

Sophomore guard Doug Davis leads Princeton at 13.3 points a game. The 5-11 Philly native has topped 20 points in three of the past four outings. Dan Mavraides, a 6-3 junior guard, scores at a 10.7 clip.

During Princeton's three-game winning streak, it has held each opponent to 50 points or less. USA Today picked the Tigers to finish second in the Ivy League.

Black Bears guard Gerald McLemore is No. 4 in the country, averaging four 3-pointers per game.

RPI
Princeton: 103
UMaine: 268

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Floor it

The planned renovations for The Pit may be crawling along, but it seems the UMaine men and women hoopsters will be running on a new (well, sort of new) floor when they next take the court at Alfond Arena.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Black Bears 57, Kennesaw State 51

The Black Bears limited visiting Kennesaw State to 30 percent shooting, got a double-double from Troy Barnies and 20 points from Gerald McLemore for the victory.

UMaine (5-4) held the Owls' top scorer, Markeith Cummings to 11 points (on 3 of 10 shooting) and six rebounds. Cummings came into the game having registered double-doubles in Kennesaw's first two Atlantic Sun games, including a 32-point outburst against a good Belmont team. Kennesaw falls to 4-5.

Barnies had 11 points and 13 rebounds for UMaine, which shot only 35 percent overall. The Black Bears, however, outgunned Kennesaw from long range, hitting 9 of 21 (43 percent) from distance compared to the Owls' 17 percent (5 of 29).

Battling foul trouble, Sean McNally had 10 rebounds in only 13 minutes of action. Freshman Mike Allison helped pick up the slack, scoring seven points and grabbing seven boards.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Game 9

Kennesaw State (4-4) at Black Bears (4-4)
Sunday, Dec. 13, 1 p.m.
Alfond Arena, Orono

First game of a three-game road trip for Kennesaw, which has won two of its last three games. UMaine will try to improve on its last Division 1 Alfond Arena performance, a 13-point loss to Quinnipiac in the home opener.

The Black Bears and Kennesaw met in the championship game of the 100 Club Classic at Kennesaw last season, with UMaine winning, 60-47. The Owls play in the Atlantic Sun Conference. USA Today picked Kennesaw to finish ninth in the 11-team league.

The Owls, however, are off to a solid conference start with a 97-91 win over Lipscomb and a 75-70 loss to Belmont, a pair of teams picked to finish well above them. Redshirt freshman Markeith Cummings registered double-doubles in both A-Sun games, including an Owls season best 32 points (and 11 rebounds) against Belmont. He had 10 points and 10 assists against Lipscomb. Cummings was named A-Sun Player of the Week.

Fourteen of the 16 players on Kennesaw's roster are from either Georgia or Alabama. The odd men out? One's from Maryland and the other, Bosnia.

Meanwhile, the Black Bears' roster has representatives from seven states, Canada and Bulgaria.

Kennesaw leaders
Scoring
Markeith Cummings, 6-7 forward, 17.2 ppg;
Kurtis Woods, 6-3 guard, 13.6;
Jon-Michael Nickerson, 6-6 forward, 12.2.

Rebounding
LaDaris Green, 6-9 forward, 7.4 rpg;
Cummings, 5.9;
Nickerson, 5.6.

The Owls finish the road trip with games at Western Michigan and Georgia Tech.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Game 8

UM-Presque Isle (0-4) at Black Bears (3-4)
Wednesday, Dec. 9, 7 p.m.
Memorial Gym, Orono

The game is scheduled for "The Pit," Maine's practice facility and, hopefully sometime this century, its future home. Game may be threatened by today's storm. After two-game foray to polar opposites of the college hoop spectrum (Syracuse/Presque Isle; and how many times have those two words ever appeared in the same hoops sentence), the Black Bears returned to normalcy when they host Kennesaw State Sunday.

For what it's worth: Fordham (without leading scorer Jio Fontan who has announced plans to leave the Bronx school) defeated expected America East contender Stony Brook last night ... by 16 (93-77). Huh?

Wonder if Jio, a native of Puerto Rico and a product of famed high school St. Anthony in Jersey City, could find happiness in Orono? He led Fordham in scoring last year at 15-plus a game and was named to the All-A-10 rookie team.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Syracuse 101, Black Bears 55

Gerald McLemore led UMaine with 21 points in the loss to No. 7-ranked Syracuse. Mike Allison had three points and a team-high nine rebounds. Some photos from the game.

The Boz

Steve sent me this link to a nice article on Black Bears reserve guard Jerrell Boswell. Obviously, he's still got some work to do on his defense as he hasn't gotten on the floor much in the early going. There are many adjustments that high school players and junior college players must make in order to contribute at the D1 level. Even at the America East level of D1, the difference between high school ball and small JUCO programs can be vast. Let's hope Jerrell can work his way into the rotation so he can show us some of that offensive firepower.

Game 7

Black Bears (3-3) at Syracuse (7-0)
Saturday, Dec. 5, 7 p.m.
Carrier Dome, Syracuse, N.Y.

UMaine checks out the high-rent district tonight when it visits the Orange. Syracuse is No. 13 in the RPI while the Black Bears check in at 258.

The Orange are in the midst of their annual parade of "guarantee games," never leaving the Carrier Dome while racking up the wins against schools grateful for the opportunity to play in the Dome and happy to bring a little money home to their cash-starved programs.

Here's Syracuse's non-Big East home schedule this season: Albany, Robert Morris, Cornell, Columbia, Colgate, Maine, St. Francis (N.Y.), St. Bonaventure and Oakland.

The Orange played Cal, North Carolina and Florida on neutral courts.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Black Bears 76, Colgate 66

UMaine outscored host Colgate 29-15 in the final 9 and a half minutes Thursday to pull away in Hamilton, N.Y.

Terrance Mitchell (game-high 24 points) and Sean McNally (20 points, 9 rebounds) led the surge down the stretch as the Black Bears completed a rally from as much as 10 down. Mitchell had 11 in the final 9-plus minutes and McNally eight.
Junior Bernal had seven points and six rebounds while Murphy Burnatowski added seven points and five rebounds. Gerald McLemore (11 points) joined Mitchell (pictured above) and McNally in double figures.

UMaine shot 48 percent from the floor, 44 percent from the arc and held a huge advantage on free throws (27 of 35), making more freebies than Colgate shot (17 of 22).

Five and done

Fordham didn't play Navy, but apparently losses to UMaine, Fairfield, Hartford and Manhattan were bad enough for the Rams administration to take a page from the Notre Dame playbook and pull the plug on its coach.

Fordham, 1-4 this year including a season-opening loss to the Black Bears, fired Dereck Whittenberg today, five games into his seventh season.

Among other things, Athletic Director Frank McLaughlin pointed out that the Rams had a "favorable schedule" early in the season and "should be better than 1-4." He also stated bluntly: " ... it was not a difficult decision. The record speaks for itself."

Whittenberg was 69-112 at Fordham. He was 67-50 in four seasons at Wagner, where he unsuccessfully tried to recruit former Black Bear Justin Rowe.

Bada Bing(hamton)

More fallout from the Binghamton basketball implosion. Assistant coach Julius Allen has been reassigned within the athletic department after an apparent rift with interim coach Mark Macon.

As most folks know by now, head coach Kevin Broadus was put on administrative leave while the program is under investigation. Several players were booted off the team a month or so ago, leaving the defending America East champions in disarray.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Game 6

Black Bears (2-3) at Colgate (0-6)
Thursday, Dec. 3, 7 p.m.
Cotterell Court, Hamilton, N.Y.

Forget the upcoming three money games against Syracuse, UConn and BC (and the obligatory wipeout of non-D1 UM-Presque Isle), the success of the Black Bears' non-conference schedule will come down to the four games against Colgate, Kennesaw State, Princeton and Columbia.

UMaine is coming off a nine-day layoff following an ugly home-opening loss to Quinnipiac, an effort that some members of the Black Bears called "tired."

The Black Bears would be wise to ignore Colgate's slow start. Picked to finish in the middle of the Patriot League, the Raiders are winless. But Colgate has four players on its roster who have averaged double figures in points and have experienced some team success in recent years.

Yaw Gyawu, a 6-5 sophomore forward, made the all-rookie team in the Patriot League last year. He is scoring 14.5 points a game and teams with sixth-year senior Kyle Roemer, a 6-3 guard who leads the team at 16.7 ppg. Roemer averaged 16.2 points a game two years ago. He was sidelined by an injury last season and received a medical redshirt year.

The Raiders also have games against America East's Stony Brook and New Hampshire this month. Colgate was 10-20 a year ago.

A win Thursday for the Black Bears will blunt the inevitable at the Carrier Dome Saturday and give some reason for optimism that could carry over to the Kennesaw, Princeton and Columbia games. Win all four games against its "like" competition and the Black Bears would be looking at a good 6-6 non-league record. Winning three of the four games is probably more reasonable and would leave a respectable 5-7 mark. Anything less would have to be termed a disappointment.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Knight rider

Maine native Tom Knight, a freshman at Notre Dame, reportedly has been out with an injury the past couple of weeks.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Knight moves

For what it's worth, Notre Dame, until its loss Friday to Northwestern, had won seven straight games by an average of 19 points a game. One of the victories was an 18-point verdict over Kennesaw State, a team the Black Bears will host Dec. 13.

Maine native Tom Knight has not played in a game yet. The Irish website does not mention if he is redshirting, saying only that Knight is "expected to see playing time in a reserve role behind Luke Harangody and Tyrone Nash."

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Rockford files

Former UMaine player and assistant coach and Maine Central Institute coach Ed Jones is entering his first year as head coach at Guilford High School in Rockford, Ill.

Rockford Guilford is where Jones starred before coming to the Black Bears.

Jones was a superb rebounder and shot blocker and was part of some very good UMaine teams as a player and coach. Jones always liked to talk basketball. I particularly remember discussing Rockford's 50-year team that was selected by the Rockford newspaper some years ago. He took some good-natured ribbing for not being named to the team.

A word of note: Players named to an all-decade, 50-year, or whatever, in Illinois are generally guys that went on to play major college hoops and/or in the NBA.

How many Black Bears fans can say they saw Ed Jones set a NIC-9 Conference record for blocked shots in a game? Visiting family in Illinois one year during the holidays, some of us attended a local high school basketball game and, in the contest, Jones swatted away something like 10 or 12 shots against Belvidere.

Little did we know, that some years later, we'd discuss that game over postgame meals in the Dexter Lounge at Alfond Arena.

Good luck and best wishes Ed Jones.

Looking for a sign

Economists and financial experts search daily for signs the country is pulling out of the "Great Recession." Black Bears fans are no different, looking for something, anything from the 2009-10 edition that signals an end to several season's worth of hoops doldrums.

Through five games (remember, it's only five games), there's not much to hang our hats on. In fact, we've already seen many familiar warning signs: blown leads, second-half defensive meltdowns, poor shooting, home arena woes, just to name a few.

It surely must not sit well with some fans and the coaching staff to come back from the season-opening road trip and put up a performance that was described as "tired" the following day in the Bangor Daily News.

The obvious question is: Given the results of the past few seasons and all the pre-season talk of finishing games and a renewed emphasis on in-game leadership, how does this happen?

Forty-six points and a 13-point loss to Quinnipiac in the home opener? Coming off a game at Brown in which a team picked to finish last in the Ivy League scored 43 second-half points to beat the Black Bears.

Already this year, teams are focusing on Gerald McLemore and daring anyone else on the Black Bears to pick up the slack. Shooting 30 percent at home is not picking up the slack.

The bench has been almost non-existent through the early going. The offense comes and goes (and that's not unusual in basketball), but when the defense plays in spurts ... that's when you have problems.

Newcomer Terrance Mitchell has given the Black Bears a lift at times, but he's having trouble staying on the floor, fouling out in three of the five games. Jerrell Boswell, reportedly a new-found outside shooting threat, can't be found, playing about five minutes total with a DNP Tuesday.

On the positive side, the Black Bears knocked off two teams (A-10 bottom feeder Fordham and MEAC cellar-dweller Delaware State) they should beat and surrendered a lead late in a loss to Norfolk State (expected to contend in the MEAC).

Then came Brown and Quinnipiac and the ghosts of seasons past could be heard in the wind.

It's only five games, but ... It's only five games.

Are we already pinning our hopes on the return of Malachi Peay and the arrival of Travon Wilcher?

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Quinnipiac 59, Black Bears 46

The good news? UMaine held Northeast Conference scoring champ James Feldeine to three points Tuesday in its home opener. The bad news? It didn't matter as the Black Bears shot 30 percent and allowed Quinnipiac to burn the nets at 45 percent, stumbling to a loss at Alfond Arena.

The Black Bears never led during the contest and made just 2 of 16 three-point attempts.

Sophomore guard James Johnson, who made the NEC all-rookie team last year, paced the Bobcats with 16 points and shut down the Black Bears' Gerald McLemore (6 points on 3 of 10 shooting), an all-rookie selection in America East.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Game 5

Quinnipiac (2-1) at Black Bears (2-2)
Tuesday, Nov. 24, 7 p.m.
Alfond Arena, Orono

Tuesday is a busy night in America East as six of the nine teams hit the hardwood. In Orono, UMaine entertains the Q in its home opener after splitting four games on a season-opening road trip. Quinnipiac has sandwiched wins over Hartford and Yale around a loss to Lehigh. The Bobcats are picked to finish near the top of the Northeast Conference this year.

Six-foot-four guard James Feldeine (19.7 points, 6.3 rebounds) and 6-7 forward Justin Rutty (15.7, 9.0) lead the Bobcats. Feldeine won the NEC scoring title last season and Rutty was the league's top board man as Quinnipiac went 15-16.

Quinnipiac won last year's meeting, 73-66, also in Orono. Rutty had 30 points in the contest while Feldeine went for 14.

Brown 75, Black Bears 62

Playing its third game in five days, Brown (2-3) exploded for 43 points in the second half and pulled away from the visiting Black Bears (2-2).

Brown limited UMaine's leading scorers, Gerald McLemore and Terrance Mitchell, to 13 points, 22 under their combined average. Entering the game, the duo was teaming up for 35 a game. On the flip side, Brown's top scoring tandem of Matt Mullery (24 points) and Peter Sullivan (20) entered the game scoring a combined 23 a game and nearly doubled that against UMaine.

Junior Bernal (18 points, 9 rebounds) and Sean McNally (14, points, 10 rebounds) paced the Black Bears. Mitchell was 2 of 9 from the field and fouled out of the contest with five points. It was his second disqualification in the first four games. McLemore, who was averaging nearly 20 points, finished with eight on 3 of 12 shooting.

UMaine won the rebounding battle, but that was more than offset by Brown's 47-percent shooting from the floor.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Game 4

Black Bears (2-1) at Brown (1-3)
Sunday, Nov. 22, 2 p.m.
Pizzitola Sports Center, Providence, R.I.

There is a distinct Vermont flavor on the Brown University bench with head coach Jesse Agel (a longtime Tom Brennan assistant at UVM) and former Vermont players T.J. Sorrentine and Kyle Cieplicki serving as assistants.

Brown is 1-2 with a game vs. St. John's Friday before hosting UMaine. The Bears defeated St. Francis (N.Y.) in their opener before dropping games to Virginia Tech and Rhode Island (78-57 in front of a near sellout crowd in their home opener). Six-foot-eight forward Matt Mullery (13 points per game) and 6-5 forward Peter Sullivan (10.3) are Brown's top scorers through three games.

The game is the finale of a four-game road trip to open the season for the Black Bears. The Brown athletic Web site lists the game with a 2 p.m. start. The UMaine schedule says 1 p.m. Brown was 9-19 last season and was picked to finish last in the Ivy League by Blue Ribbon magazine.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Black Bears 59, Delaware State 56

Behind the frontcourt tandem of Sean McNally (17 points, 8 rebounds) and Troy Barnies (10 points, 12 rebounds), the Black Bears rallied for a win in Dover, Del.

After falling behind by 12 (31-19) in the opening moments of the second half, UMaine reeled off a 21-8 run that was capped by a Barnies bucket at 12:31 that gave the Black Bears only their second lead of the game at 40-39. It was nip-and-tuck the rest of the way as neither team led by more than four points.

Junior Bernal added 10 points for UMaine while Terrance Mitchell and Gerald McLemore tallied nine each. The Black Bears (2-1) trailed 29-19 at the intermission before putting up 40 in the second half. Delaware State falls to 2-1.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Game 3

Black Bears (1-1) at Delaware State (2-0)
Nov. 18, 7:30 p.m.
Memorial Hall, Dover, Del.

Delaware State has posted wins in its first two contests, both against non-D1 competition. The Hornets were picked to finish ninth (of 11 schools) in a preseason poll of MEAC coaches.

Delaware State was 8-24 last season. The matchup between DSU and UMaine ought to be interesting as both teams are guard dominated. Delaware State went to a four-guard lineup Monday to pull away from Wilmington University. Meanwhile, the Black Bears have relied on guards Gerald McLemore, Terrance Mitchell and Junior Bernal in the early going.

If UMaine can exploit Delaware State on the interior, look for a positive result Wednesday night. If it comes down to a shootout from the perimeter ... that might play into the home team's hands.

Norfolk State 72, Black Bears 71

Kyle O'Quinn's hoop with 5 seconds gave Norfolk State (1-1) only its second lead of the game as the Spartans rallied from a 14-point deficit and clipped the visiting Black Bears (1-1) Monday night.

UMaine appeared headed for a second straight win to open the season, holding a seven-point lead (64-57) with three minutes to go. The Spartans, playing without injured leading scorer Michael Deloach, pulled out the win. Until the final margin, Norfolk State hadn't led since scoring the first hoop of the game.

Gerald McLemore paced UMaine with 24 points. Sean McNally contributed 11 points and 10 rebounds. Terrance Mitchell scored 16.

Though it is only two games, the Black Bears have demonstrated a familiar penchant for playing well enough to lead or contend late into games before fading down the stretch. In the opener, the Black Bears built a big lead on Fordham and then held on. Using the same formula against Norfolk, the Black Bears led 52-38 with 11 minutes to go before surrendering almost as many points in the final 10 minutes (34) as they had in the first 30. During the final stretch, the Black Bears committed eight of their 18 turnovers.

Much of the preseason Black Bears' talk centered around cleaning up this fatal character flaw and closing games.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Game 2

Black Bears (1-0) at Norfolk State (0-1)
Monday, Nov. 16
Echols Hall, Norfolk, Va., 7 p.m.

Norfolk State dropped its season opener, 86-58 at Baylor, Friday night. The Spartans were led by pre-season Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference player of the year Michael Deloach (right). A 6-foot senior guard, Deloach had 20 points and eight rebounds in the loss in Waco, Texas.

Deloach averaged 21.5 points a game a year ago to become only the second Spartan player to lead the MEAC in scoring.

Norfolk State, despite a 10-game losing streak during the campaign, went 13-18 last season and advanced to the MEAC tournament championship game for for the first time in school history. The Spartans finished third in the conference standings at 9-7 behind Morgan State and South Carolina State. In the pre-season poll of league coaches, the Spartans were picked third ... behind the same two schools.

The Black Bears split a pair of games against Norfolk State back in 2000-01 and 2001-02.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Black Bears 76, Fordham 73

Gerald McLemore led four Black Bears in double figures in a season-opening win at Fordham. McLemore tallied 26 points and pulled down eight rebounds while Terrance Mitchell tossed in 21 points, had five rebounds, four assists and three steals.

UMaine, which shot 43 percent from the field (10 of 20 on threes), overcame a six-point halftime deficit, built a 16-point lead and then held on. Fordham was cold on its home floor and was held to 33 percent from the field.

The Black Bears and Stony Brook were the only America East teams to post wins Friday when numerous D1 teams got into action. Boston U., Vermont, Albany and Hartford all lost.

Sean McNally (12 points, 7 rebounds) and Junior Bernal (10 points, 6 rebounds) joined McLemore and Mitchell in double figures. Troy Barnies added five points, six boards and four assists.

The Black Bears outrebounded the Rams, 46-39. There were 18 lead changes before UMaine took control and went up 70-54 with a little more than 5 minutes left. Closing games was an issue throughout last season and despite only scoring six points in the final 5-plus minutes Friday, the Black Bears got a road win.

Season opener tonight

Black Bears (0-0) at Fordham (0-0)
Rose Hill Gym, Bronx, N.Y., 8 p.m.

This tilt features programs mired at the bottom of their respective leagues (America East/Atlantic 10) and trying to make a leap up the standings.

Fordham went 3-25 a season ago and 1-15 in the A-10. The Rams won their final pre-season tuneup with a blowout of Mercy College. Freshman Christ Gaston (a 6-7 forward out of high school powerhouse St. Anthony and New Hampton Prep) put up a double-double of 27 points, 17 rebounds. Coach Dereck Whittenberg, of NC State fame, is reportedly on the hot seat as the season begins. Rose Hill Gym is the oldest on-campus D1 facility in the country. Fordham is also one of the early head coaching stops of one Richard "Digger" Phelps.

Maine will attempt to turn its fortunes of the past several years with a new cast surrounding returnees Sean McNally, Troy Barnies, Junior Bernal and Gerald McLemore. McLemore made the All-America East freshman team last year and is Maine's top returning scorer. Much of the focus will be on junior college products Jerrell Boswell (an outside threat) and Terrance Mitchell and how much and how quickly they can mesh with their new squad.

The Black Bears non-conference schedule - except for guarantee games against Syracuse, Boston College and UConn - looks somewhat less than daunting. There aren't many home dates, but the docket is littered with programs in the bottom third of the Division 1 RPI ratings.

The journey to Hartford and the America East Conference tournament begins tonight. Good luck and let's get this ship headed in the right direction.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Blue/White recap

Steve made the trip up to Orono for the annual Blue/White game (while I was stuck at work). He filed this report late Sunday night:

First impressions
Overall team ball handling and athleticism looks to be improved. ... Jerry Boswell has a nice shot and an "Eddie House" quick release. ... Terrance Mitchell looks solid. ... Mike Allison runs the floor well and is a better athlete than expected. ... Enjoyed the segment of the game where guards Ryan Martin and Andrew Rogers were going at each other. ... Gerald McLemore looks ready to ascend the stairway to stardom. ... Travon Wilcher started slowly, but came on strong throughout the scrimmage. ... Chetinov is improved, Barnies added some muscle. ... McNally and Bernal as expected. ... Didn't see much from Peay.

Final thought
Pleasantly surprised with team's energy and improved athleticism.

Only 18 days until the opener vs. Fordham.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Scripps stud

Just a reminder, Tate Forcier, the freshman quarterback for Michigan (who is lighting up Notre Dame as this is written), attended the same high school (Scripps Ranch in San Diego) as Black Bears guard Gerald McLemore.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Looking for a lineup

Now that the Black Bears roster has been published, it's fair game for some good old speculation.

Any discussion of the UMaine lineup has to begin with the trio of Sean McNally, Junior Bernal and Gerald McLemore. They form a solid -- but not spectacular -- core to build a unit around. You know when the season opener rolls around, those guys will be ready and in the lineup.

Competing for playing time up front will be returnees Malachi Peay, Troy Barnies and Svetoslav Chetinov along with newcomers Travon Wilcher, Mike Allison and Murphy Burnatowski. Wilcher is expected to lend much-needed shot-blocking and rebounding support when December rolls around. It's harder to guage how much of an impact Allison and Burnatowski may have, although they've seemingly had decent success with the Canadian National junior team. Peay had some moments last season, but injuries slowed him down. Consistency is needed from him.

Andrew Rogers last year, as a freshman, played some decent minutes at point guard ... at times. But it's hard to see him playing the point for major minutes. That could change if he establishes himself as more of an offensive threat.

There's little question junior college guards Terrance Mitchell and Jerrell Boswell will be needed to come in and contribute some offensive firepower from the get-go. The Black Bears last year, very rarely, scored the ball easily. In other words, everything on offense seemed to be a struggle. If they can get 10 points a game outside of the offense, from sheer offensive ability, it would help quite a bit.

Here's my guess at a starting lineup:

F - McNally, 6-7: Hands down, Maine's best, most consistent performer last year; must continue to raise his game.
F - Peay, 6-6: A slasher who can worm his way to the hoop for buckets; needs to show improvement; defend and rebound better.
G - McLemore, 6-3: One of the top freshman in America East last year. League defenses will key on him. Must improve his ballhandling and defense, but indications are he should be a top level AE player for his career.
G - Mitchell, 6-3: Advance pub says he can score and rebound. Let's hope so. Black Bears need it.
G - Bernal, 6-5: He'll attempt anything the coaching staff asks him to do and he does it with great effort. His limitations are well documented, but his ability to defend and lead with shouldn't be dismissed.

In the rotation:
F - Barnies, 6-7: He's working hard to become the type of player successful programs at the AE level always seem to have ... effort guys who don't care about stats. If he rebounds and defends, he may be in the starting lineup. I've got a feeling he'll find some offensive sea legs this year. He's a decent shooter.
G - Rogers, 5-9: Had a few moments last year. Big question, can he force teams to respect his shot.
G - Boswell, 6-0: A scorer and deep range threat in junior college. Will it carry over to D1? Black Bears banking on it.
F - Wilcher, 6-7: Starting lineup looks a little rebounding-challenged. Reportedly, Wilcher can help there.

Question marks:
C - Chetinov, 6-9: Now the tallest player on the roster (along with Mike Allison); but is Chet ready to help?
F - Allison, 6-9: Has experience playing world competition as a member of Canada's national junior team.
F - Burnatowski, 6-6: His mom's a Maine native; otherwise, see above. Going to be interesting to see what he and Allison bring to the Orono table. History says, don't count too much on freshman. UMaine needs history to take a year off.
G - Jon McAlian, 6-6: Red-shirt freshman with a year in the program.
G - Ryan Martin, 5-9: He can shoot it, that much we know. But can he do the other things that earn floor time?

Summary
What's new ... Black Bears enter another season with loads of question marks. Certainly more question marks than answers. The positive, however, is that the roster isn't the same one that fizzled badly last year.

Where's Jacob?

UMaine updated its roster on the school's athletic website, goblackbears.com, and conspicuous by its absence was Jacob McLemore, younger brother of All-America East Freshman team member Gerald McLemore.

Jacob, who attended Scripps Ranch High School in San Diego just like Gerald, was an early signee, but his name is not listed. No word yet on what has transpired. Maybe he's been steered to prep school? Maybe he changed his mind?

Also missing from the roster is sophomore guard Doran Mitchell of Connecticut. Mitchell saw little playing time as a freshman.

Maine's roster will once again have a fresh flavor with no less than five first-year players (Travon Wilcher, Mike Allison, Murphy Burnatowski, Terrance Mitchell and Jerrell Boswell).

Also gone from the roster are center Jordan Cook, who has been dealing with some health issues, and guard Mark Socoby, who will attend UMaine this year and then finish his collegiate eligibility at an NAIA school near Los Angeles next year.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Non-conference schedule

UMaine's non-America East schedule has been released. It features nine road tilts, including three against BCS schools Syracuse, UConn and Boston College. The home slate contains four games (three of them vs. D1 opponents).

Nov. 13: @Fordham
Nov. 16: @ Norfolk State
Nov. 18: @ Delaware State
Nov. 22: @ Brown
Nov. 24: Quinnipiac

Dec. 3: @ Colgate
Dec. 5: @ Syracuse
Dec. 9: UMPI (non-D1)
Dec. 13: Kennesaw State
Dec. 20: Princeton
Dec. 22: @ Connecticut
Dec. 30: @ Columbia

Jan. 2: @ Boston College

Roster retooling continues

UMaine's roster makeover continues with the signing of Jerrell Boswell to a letter of intent. Coach Ted Woodward, on the heels of the Terrance Mitchell signing, announced that Boswell, a 6-0 guard from Covington, Ga., and Snead State Community College in Boaz, Ala., will join the Black Bears this fall.

Boswell was the sixth-leading scorer in the Alabama Community College Conference during his sophomore season, averaging 18.5 points per game.
Last season, he posted five games of 30 or more points, including a 45-point outburst against Northwestern Tech on Dec. 4.
He made 147 three-pointers while shooting 40.9 percent from behind the arc, averaging 4.9 three-pointers per game. Boswell had four games where he made 10 or more three-pointers, including 15 in one game which is the second-most in National Junior College Athletic Association history according to their record books. He was a two-time All-Region 23 selection and led his team to a top-25 ranking during the 2008-09 season.
With the commitment, Boswell becomes the sixth first-year player on the UMaine roster for the upcoming season. He'll be joined by:
Terrance Mitchell, junior, 6-3 guard, Faulkner State (Ala.);
Jacob McLemore, freshman, 6-2 guard, San Diego;
Murphy Burnatowski, freshman, 6-6 forward, Canadian junior national team ;
Mike Allison, freshman, 6-9 forward, Canadian junior national team ;
Travon Wilcher, sophomore, 6-7 forward, UMass transfer.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Leichner returns

Former UMaine assistant coach Doug Leichner is back on coach Ted Woodward's staff. After a year heading up a team in Ireland, Leichner returns to Orono.

Mitchell Report

UMaine has announced the signing of Terrance Mitchell, a 6-foot-3 guard out of Faulkner State Community College in Bay Minette, Ala., the same school that produced former Black Bear Fed Meeks (1999-01). Mitchell led the Sun Chiefs with 20.5 points per game as the team went 14-16.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Recruiting rumor trail

There are rumors circulating that UMaine will land Faulkner State Community College standout Terrance Mitchell.

Mitchell, a 6-3, 200-pound guard, led the Sun Chiefs in scoring, averaging 20.5 a game. He earned honorable mention All-America recognition for his play at the Bay Minette, Ala., school. In the photo, he lays a shot in over a Pensacola Christian defender.

A native of Milton, Fla., Mitchell would be the second Faulkner State basketball player to land in Orono. In 1999, Faulkner standout Fred Meeks was one of John Giannini's early recruits and helped build the Black Bears into a solid America East contender for several years.

Notes: Milton, Fla., is famous for being the hometown of PGA golfer and Ryder Cup hero Boo Weekley. ... It's also the town where a friend and I attended a high school football game in the mid-'80s between Escambia High of Pensacola and Milton. We went to the game to see a kid named Emmitt Smith who starred for Escambia.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

One door closes ...

With the exit of Mark Socoby comes an opportunity to fill his roster spot. The Black Bears already have three freshman and a UMass transfer coming on board for next season.

Wonder if there's any chance of the Black Bears being able to track down a junior college scorer? UMaine suddenly has 35 minutes a game to fill and the team desperately needs someone who can flat out score.

You look up and down the rosters of every America East team and everyone (maybe not Albany, but Tim Ambrose isn't bad and Will Harris is close) has at least one or two players you pretty much know are going to get their points on any given night. The Black Bears never knew from game to game what they were going to get from anyone. And that would have been the case whether Socoby came back for his senior year or not.

Recruits coming in next year are freshmen Jacob McLemore (6-2 guard out of San Diego), 6-6 wing Murphy Burnatowski (Canadian junior national team), 6-9 forward Mike Allison (Canadian junior national team) and a sophomore, 6-7 forward Travon Wilcher (UMass transfer).

It's not reasonable to expect any of those four to be prime time point producers. Of the players coming back, Gerald McLemore showed great promise and must keep improving. But it is hard to look at anyone else on the current UMaine roster and expect a huge bump in point production. Not saying we couldn't be surprised; just not counting on it.

That's why it'd be nice to find a junior college guy who can come in and do what Muhammad El-Amin did for Stony Brook. Or, how about Fred Meeks, remember him? He came to UMaine about 10 years ago and provided instant scoring punch.

There have got to be guys out there looking for the chance to play, play a lot and score the ball. UMaine's got 35 minutes a game worth of opportunity.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

James to FGCU?

According to a televised news report tonight, UMaine athletic director Blake James is a candidate for the director of athletics position at Florida Gulf Coast University in Fort Myers, Fla.

Socoby says good-bye

Bangor television station WABI reported today that junior guard Mark Socoby will leave the UMaine basketball team. Coach Ted Woodward issued a statement, attributing the decision to "personal reasons."

"Mark expressed interest to transfer and we wish him luck," said Woodward. "We really like the guys we have now going into spring workouts."

The highwater mark of Socoby's UMaine career most assuredly was his career high 30 points in an overtime loss to Stony Brook during the play-in game of the 2008 America East tournament. He hit a tourney record nine three-pointers, including a banked in shot that forced overtime. He surpassed the previous record (7) held by four players, including his brother-in-law, former Black Bear star, Kevin Reed.

One of the more heralded high school players in the state of Maine in recent years, Socoby entered UMaine with high individual and team expectations. While the Black Bears struggled as a team his first two years, Socoby showed good promise. He earned third team all-conference honors after a sophomore campaign in which he averaged nearly 15 points and six rebounds a game. For whatever reason, Socoby's shooting percentages, scoring and rebounding slid this year. And the team continued its malaise, losing in the play-in game for the second straight year.

Here is Socoby's stat line from what turned out to be his last appearance in a UMaine uniform, a 65-56 loss to Hartford on March 6:

30 minutes
2 for 9 field goals
2 for 7 three-point field goals
2 rebounds
3 assists
1 steal
2 turnovers
8 points

We wish Socoby the best and appreciate his efforts in a UMaine uniform. It's been a tough few years in Black Bear-ville and it is apparent that it must have been weighing heavily on him.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Rumor mill

Rumors are flying around that Black Bears junior guard Mark Socoby is considering leaving the UMaine program.

We hope that the rumors are unfounded and that Mark comes back with a vengence next season and finishes out with a stellar senior season. While statistically Socoby didn't have as strong a season as his sophomore campaign, he was still a player the opposition had to gameplan for when preparing to take on the Black Bears. Socoby and Gerald McLemore gave the Black Bears two legitimate outside threats.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Way back machine

Because it's always interesting to remember Black Bears from yesteryear ... and it's fun to work one of my favorite Black Bears into the discussion whenever possible ... let's take a look at the America East all-conference team from 1992-93. The '93 awards are significant because, until this season, that was the last time the Black Bears did not land a player on the all-league squad.

The '93 team featured four of the best players in the history of America East: Vin Baker, Hartford, Malik Rose, Drexel, Eddie Benton, Vermont and Spencer Dunkley, Delaware. Also on the first team was Brian Holden of Drexel.
Second team: David Stiff, Boston U., Anthony Wright, Delaware, Brian Pearl, Delaware, Anthony Brown, Northeastern, Dan Callahan, Northeastern.

UMaine's Marty Higgins and Derrick Hodge made second team all-conference in '92.

Francois Bouchard (No. 1 draft choice on my all-time Black Bears team) was picked to the second team in '94, starting a 15-year streak of at least one Black Bear being honored.

Who will begin a new streak next year?

Monday, March 9, 2009

Take that

In one way, it's poetic justice that Binghamton and Maryland-Baltimore County are preparing to square off for the league title Saturday.

Prior to the conference tournament last week, America East announced its annual awards and conspicuous by their absences were Binghamton junior guard D.J. Rivera and UMBC freshman forward Chauncey Gilliam.

Rivera had arguably the best individual season in the league and was widely viewed as a front-runner for the player of the year award with Vermont's Marqus Blakely. Not only did Rivera not win the player of the year award, but coaches also left him off the first team all-conference team.
The snub was a result of league coaches who were upset by the NCAA's handling of his transfer from St. Joe's.

He was eligible, he played and he excelled. Don't take it out on him.

As for Gilliam? He's arguably the top rookie in the league and demonstrated that again during the tournament, playing an instrumental role in UMBC's two victories. But he was left off the all-rookie team. He competes and sometimes appears close to the edge, but that's what you want from players ... I'd think. He had great statistics, but, apparently, coaches felt they needed him to pay for a flagrant foul that was called on him during a regular season game.

The call was questionable at best. Hard to tell whether his elbow to BU's Matt Wolff was intentional, a case of good acting, or a combination of both. Nonetheless, he'd already been punished and the snub was piling on. Maybe there's another side to the story. But, as with Rivera, he played the whole season and played well.

Gilliam and Rivera get the last laugh, however, as those who punished them via the ballot enjoy some crow in front of the television.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Notes from Albany

Black Bears
Most will point to the banked in three-pointer by Hartford's Andres Torres with 50 some seconds to go as the game breaker, but the tenor of the game was set during a six- or seven-minute span of the first half. UMaine went into one of it's patented funks (turnovers, bad shots, bad defense) and allowed Hartford to not only rally from a seven-point deficit, but assume control of the game.

The Black Bears tried to rally, but everytime they needed a key defensive play or execute a crucial offensive set, the Hawks made the plays. UMaine pulled within one, but by that time, it was Hawks, the No. 9 seed and losers of 14 consecutive games, who were dictating play.

Thus, for the second straight year, the Black Bears boarded the bus home just as the rest of us were getting set for the tournament to start. Would have been nice if the Black Bears could have stayed around and gotten a taste of the intensity in the arena when the quarterfinals began.

Quarterfinals
One of the best quarterfinal days in recent memory. Two overtime games, a No. 9 getting feisty with the No. 1 seed and the expected close game in the 4/5 game. Big, boisterous crowds.

Albany/Vermont
Albany demonstrated the value of playing tough and together, despite not having near the offensive weapons of Vermont. After trailing much of the game, Vermont finally took leads late in regulation and then in overtime, but the Great Danes, struggling mightily on the offensive end, found a way to hang in there. ... It was the first time a No. 7 has defeated a No. 2 in America East tournament history and it was electric in the building the whole game. ... It wasn't pretty, but that's the beauty of basketball; you can win with offense, you can win with defense or you can win by just out-gutting the other team.

UMBC/Boston U.
Another overtime upset, paced by UMBC stud Darryl Proctor, whose follow-up bucket with 2 seconds to go forced the extra period. ... Retriever guard Jay Greene didn't score until his two free throws sealed the win late in OT. But his play was scintillating. All he did was orchestrate UMBC's comeback from an 8-point deficit with about 2:30 left in regulation. ... BU's John Holland and Corey Lowe were hitting bombs and carried the load, but UMBC had better balance, getting strong performances from center Justin Fry and freshman Chauncey Gilliam. ... Gilliam, inexplicably left off the all-rookie team, clearly out-performed BU's Jake O'Brien, who was named rookie of the year. Word around Albany was that AE coaches punished Gilliam for his flagrant foul ejection vs. Boston U. during the regular season. What a joke.

Binghamton/Hartford
Speaking of jokes, what were the coaches thinking when they left do-everything Binghamton guard D.J. Rivera off the first-team all-conference team. In fact, not a single member of the No. 1 seeded Bearcats made the first team. ... Rivera is probably the quickest guard in America East since Hofstra's Craig "Speedy" Claxton. Yes, he's that quick. He's got a gear that nobody else has in this league.

UNH/Stony Brook
Playing without injured guard Alvin Abreu, the Wildcats led the entire way and held off a late charge. ... UNH's Rony Tchatchua was injured and left the floor late in the game. ... Wildcats will need all its bullets and another strong performance from Tyrece Gibbs, who was immense against Stony Brook. ... Watch out for the Seawolves and UNH in future years. They are young, mature, growing and getting better.

Quarterfinal studs
* Tim Ambrose, Brett Gifford (defended Marqus Blakely) and Will Harris of Albany. Hey, and don't forget Mike Johnson. All the little-known guard did was grab 10 rebounds and hit the biggest free throws of the game. He's a 51-percent free throw shooter.
* Blakely; he kept Vermont in the game
* Proctor, Greene and Gilliam. BU's Lowe and Holland were flashy, but the Retrievers were more persistent
* Binghamton puts extreme pressure on the opposition both offensively and defensively. That's a unique and great quality.
* Gibbs was stellar for UNH, both scoring and on the boards; sophomore Tyrone Conley hit several clutch shots.
* Stony's freshmen -- Bryan Dougher, Dallis Joyner and Tommy Brenton -- play hard and give Stony a great core for the years ahead.
* Wolfie receives the mascot of the tourney award for his awesome "Thriller" dance routine with the Stony Brook dance team. He got a standing ovation from the hard-core still hanging out at the SEFCU as the clock ticked toward 11 p.m.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Black Bears shut out

Just pulled into our hotel in Albany and immediately checked for the news from this morning's America East banquet.

For the first time in 16 years, the University of Maine didn't have a player named first, second or third team all-conference. Sean McNally was the Black Bears' best chance after a solid sophomore season, averaging 9.6 points and 7.4 rebounds. He's also the top offensive rebounder in America East.

UMaine guard Gerald McLemore was named to the all-rookie team. Junior Bernal was named to the all-academic team.

McNally was likely among a group of three or four players vying for the final couple spots on the third team. Hartford senior Jaret von Rosenberg made the third team. His own teammate, Michael Turner, had a strong season and was another candidate.

There were a few other surprises: Boston U.'s Corey Lowe was named first team all-conference over Binghamton's D.J. Rivera, who leads the league in scoring and is eighth in rebounding. UMBC's Jay Greene was also named the second team. I'd take Rivera and Greene over Lowe.

On the rookie team, Vermont's Garvey Young made it while Maryland-Baltimore County's Chauncey Gilliam did not. Gilliam has been among the league leaders in field goal shooting all season, averaged 11 points and 4 rebounds a game. He's also shooting 47 percent on threes compared to Young's 28 percent. Gilliam plays nearly 31 minutes a game while Young only plays a fraction of that. Interesting.

Binghamton, regular season co-champions and the No. 1 seed with two wins over Vermont, did not have a player named first-team all-conference. Vermont and third-place BU each had two.

AE post-season awards

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Gettin' in tune

Last 10/Last 5

When you're hot you're hot
Binghamton ... 9-1/5-0
Vermont ... 9-1/5-0
Boston U. ... 7-3/3-2
UNH ... 6-4/4-1

Stuck in the middle with you
Stony Brook ... 6-4/3-2
UMBC ... 4-6/3-2

You're as cold as ice
Albany ... 3-7/1-4
Maine ... 1-9/1-4
Hartford ... 0-10/0-5

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Tournament picks

PLAY-IN GAME

UMaine vs. Hartford
Hawks' last win was against Black Bears in January. Black Bears' last win was against Hawks in February. This game's in March. Nobody on UMaine's active roster has ever won a game in March (unless you count assistant coach Chris Markwood, who hit the last-second shot to beat BU four years ago). Hartford made it to the league championship game last year. Good news: Hartford's not a great rebounding team. Bad news: Hawks find the holes in a porous defense and knock down threes.
Pick: Hartford

QUARTERFINALS

Vermont vs. Albany
With or without Mike Trimboli, Vermont should win this game. Now, if Marqus Blakely missed the game, that would be different story. Albany's just not that good, making its near .500 record very impressive.
Pick: Vermont

Boston U. vs. Maryland-Baltimore County
This ought to be interesting. Two proud veterans (UMBC's Jay Greene and Darryl Proctor) against BU's "Iron Five" lineup. Hopefully the refs will let the best players stay in this game, because it's going to feature some terrific vets and two solid rookies (BU's Jake O'Brien, UMBC's Chauncey Gilliam).
Pick: UMBC

Binghamton vs. Hartford
Bearcats just too quick, too fast, too tough, too agile, too ... well, you get the picture.
Pick: Binghamton

New Hampshire vs. Stony Brook
Just might go double-overtime. Two young, aggressive, on-the-rise programs, either of which should give Binghamton a run for its money in the next round. I like Tyrece Gibbs, Alvin Abreu and Dane Diliegro just a tad more than Muhammad El-Amin, Tommy Brenton and Demetrius Young.
Pick: New Hampshire

SEMIFINALS

Vermont vs. UMBC
This will come down to how well Retrievers defend Marqus Blakely. Keep him from going off, and they'll stay in the game. Greene and Proctor will have the edge if it's close after the final TV timeout.
Pick: UMBC

Binghamton vs. New Hampshire
Wildcats are not impressed with Binghamton's No. 1 seed and Herrion's got them believing. Gibbs cancels Rivera, Diliegro cancels Fuller and Abreu cancels Mayben. And UNH has enough firepower on the rest of the roster to make a run at the upset.
Pick: UNH

CHAMPIONSHIP

Maryland-Baltimore County at New Hampshire
Call it the Acronym Bowl: UMBC vs. UNH for AE championship on ESPN. Home team wins something like 95.347813 percent of all America East championship games. Go crazy granite heads, go crazy.
Pick: UNH

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Trimboli still sick

According to the Burlington Free Press, star Vermont guard Mike Trimboli is still out with an illness and his status for the America East tournament is uncertain. The illness caused Trimboli to miss his first game in four years Sunday when he didn't make the trip to Orono. The Catamounts still pounced on the Black Bears for a 93-81 win.

Color me a little skeptical on this. Kind of an unusual move to make an announcement that there "may" be an announcement the next day. All it does is excelerate the speculation. For me, I'll believe he isn't playing when they tip off at 12:07 p.m. Saturday and he's not there. Until then, I expect to see Trimboli. It wouldn't surprise me if there is some sort of statement today, it'll be along the lines of "Mike has shown some progress in the past 24 hours and he may be available, but we'll have a better idea in the next two days."

Sylvester Stallone may be in attendance at the press conference.

Post-season Awards

Preparations for the trip to UAlbany's SEFCU Arena and the conference tournament are in place and now it's time for Black Bears Pit to announce the selections for All-America East honors.

ALL-CONFERENCE

First Team
F - Marqus Blakely, Vermont
G - John Holland, Boston U.
G - D.J. Rivera, Binghamton
F - Darryl Proctor, Maryland-Baltimore County
G - Mike Trimboli, Vermont
Second Team
F - Colin McIntosh, Vermont
F - Reggie Fuller, Binghamton
G - Jay Greene, Maryland-Baltimore County
G - Corey Lowe, Boston U.
G - Tyrece Gibbs, New Hampshire
Third Team
G - Muhammad El-Amin, Stony Brook
G - Tim Ambrose, Albany
F - Will Harris, Albany
G - Michael Turner, Hartford
F - Sean McNally, Maine

PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Marqus Blakely, Vermont ... in a close race with BU's John Holland and Binghamton's D.J. Rivera, Blakely wins his second straight POY. His ability to take over a game in any number of areas (rebounding, blocked shots, steals, scoring, assists) is the determining factor. He simply gives Vermont something nobody else in the league has.

ALL-ROOKIE TEAM

F - Jake O'Brien, Boston U.
F - Chauncey Gilliam, Maryland-Baltimore County
G - Gerald McLemore, Maine
F - Tommy Brenton, Stony Brook
G - Bryan Dougher, Stony Brook

ROOKIE OF THE YEAR
Jake O'Brien, Boston U. ... the 6-8 sharpshooter paces an outstanding class of first-year players.

COACH OF THE YEAR
Kevin Broadus, Binghamton ... He took over a Bearcat program that hadn't quite been able to turn the corner and in his second year, won a share of the league title and beat Vermont twice. If that isn't enough for league coaches to stand up and take notice then they are searching for issues.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Vermont 93, Black Bears 81

Vermont scored 37 points in the final 13 minutes and earned a share of the regular-season America East title.

The Black Bears fall to 9-20 on the season and finish 4-12 in the league. UMaine has dropped four straight and nine of its past 10 games.

Sean McNally paced the Black Bears with 24 points and eight rebounds. Troy Barnies had 19. Also in double figures were Junior Bernal (12 points) and Kaimondre Owes (18).

After the Black Bears pulled within 56-54 with 13:13 left in the game, the Catamounts pulled away and led by as much as 20 points ... all in the final 13 minutes.

UMaine's play-in game foe, Hartford, is finishing the regular season against Boston U. and was trailing 36-16 late in the first half. Hartford rallied and pushed the game to overtime before falling.

The Hawks have lost 13 consecutive games. Their last win was in January against the Black Bears. UMaine's only victory in the past 10 games was against Hartford.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Vermont (22-7, 12-3) at UMaine (9-19, 4-11)

Sunday, March 1, 1 p.m.

The last time these two teams met, the Black Bears were arguably playing their best basketball of the season and Vermont was rebounding nicely from an 0-2 start to the America East season.

Vermont continued its climb up Mt. America East while UMaine has gone into a freefall.

Although UMaine lost that game in Burlington, and finished that five-game stretch at 2-3, the Black Bears had reason for hope, having built double-digit leads in successive games against the top three teams in the league.

It's been downhill since then, however, as the Black Bears have gone 1-8 in their last nine games and will enter the conference tournament next week as the No. 8 seed and play No. 9 Hartford. The Catamounts will go in as the No. 2 seed.

Vermont can earn a share of the regular-season title with a win at Alfond Arena, but Binghamton holds the tie-breaker and will be the top seed. Seeds 4 through 7 will be decided Sunday as Stony Brook visits New Hampshire and Albany is at UMBC.

The Catamounts are led by player of the year candidates Mike Trimboli and Marqus Blakely (the reigning POY). Forward Colin McIntosh is solid in the frontcourt.

The Black Bears are just looking for something to feel good about before taking on Hartford in the play-in game. They've been hammered on the boards in the past two games (losses to Albany and Boston U.) and have given up huge offensive spurts in both games.

Freshman guard Gerald McLemore has been in double figures in seven straight games and forward Troy Barnies has had some solid games. Consistency up and down the lineup has continued to be a problem, however.

Thanks to the Black Bears seniors making their final appearance at home. Best wishes.

Friday, February 27, 2009

A sad day

Right now, I'm looking at my souvenir brick from the old Chicago Stadium that was torn down to make room for the United Center. I'm looking at it and I hear the roar.

Today is a sad day for anyone who closely followed the Chicago Bulls in the late-1960s and '70s. Two icons of the franchise died yesterday, Norm Van Lier and Johnny "Red" Kerr.

Van Lier died at 61. Nicknamed "Stormin' Norman" for his legendary competiveness, he was an integral piece of those great Bulls teams that came so close we could taste it. His fire on the court alongside running mate Jerry Sloan set the gold standard for toughness.

I grew up on Bulls basketball (yes, there was great basketball in the Windy City before MJ arrived) and there's little doubt it molded me in some ways. To this day (I am sure of it), it is because of those Bulls teams, that it is hard for me to stomach players who are unwilling to lay it all on the line during a game.

Van Lier would give it everything he had every single night. He won games, the Bulls won tons of games, on heart and guts. He was the fire-breathing definition of the "will to win."

Johnny "Red" Kerr was simply a Chicago legend. Went to high school there, went to Illinois and is still the first and only coach to lead an expansion team (the Bulls) to the playoffs. He has been a staple on Bulls broadcasts for as long as I can remember. Red Kerr and Jim Durham. That was basketball on the airwaves to me as a kid.

So many great memories of Van Lier, Sloan, Bob Love, Chet Walker (and so many others) and going to those games at the Madhouse on Madison when the noise was real. It used to get so loud it was known to shatter windows.

Norm's gone. Red's gone. The Stadium's been gone for a while.

Never to be forgotten.

Welcome wagon

The list of players who have notched career best point totals against the Black Bears this year has grown to six, including each of the past three games. Not a good sign with Vermont coming to town Sunday.

Here are the recipients of UMaine's welcome wagon (starting with the most recent) goody basket:

* Jeff Pelage, Boston U. ... 10 points (kicked in a career best 12 rebounds for good measure)
* Jerel Hastings, Albany ... 19 points (also said 'what the heck' and grabbed best ever 10 boards)
* Dane Diliegro, New Hampshire ... 21 points (his 12 rebounds weren't his best, but we see a theme developing here)
* Michael Turner, Hartford ... 26 points (at least he didn't have a double-double)
* Jake O'Brien, Boston U. ... 24 points (since topped it with 25 vs. UMBC)
* Justin Rutty, Quinnipiac ... 30 points (almost a Black Bear)

For the heck of it, let's take a look at how the respective outbursts compare to their season averages:

Plus 16, Diliegro: 5 ppg
Plus 15, Rutty: 15 ppg
Plus 15, Turner: 11 ppg
Plus 14, Hastings: 5 ppg
Plus 12, O'Brien: 12 ppg
Plus 7, Pelage: 3 ppg

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Boston U. 76, Black Bears 65

Boston University coasted past the Black Bears Thursday night in the Hub City. UMaine got within nine early in the second half, but BU promptly scored five quick points and the outcome was never in doubt the rest of the way.

The Terriers (16-12 overall, 10-5 America East) dominated the backboards, out-rebounding the Black Bears (9-19, 4-11) by a 43-32 margin.

Boston U. was one rebound away from having three players with double-doubles. Freshman center Jeff Pelage became the sixth player this season to score a career high against UMaine. Pelage had 10 points and 12 rebounds. The rebound total was also a career best.

The Black Bears are on the verge of back-to-back 20 loss seasons for the first time since 1997 and '98.

Gerald McLemore paced UMaine with 16 points. Troy Barnies registered a double-double with 13 points and 10 rebounds. Mark Socoby surpassed 1,000 career points with 11, all in the second half.

Senior guard Kaimondre Owes missed his second straight game.

(UMaine (9-18, 4-10) at Boston U. (15-12, 9-5)

Thursday, Feb. 26, 7 p.m.

Boston University is going for the 1,000th victory in program history (53-38 against UMaine) while the Black Bears must win twice and hope for New Hampshire to lose twice in order to get out of the play-in game. Boston U. is set as the No. 3 seed for the upcoming America East tournament.

The Terriers, after moving to 9-2 in America East, fell out of contention with three straight losses. BU went out of the conference to break the losing skid, 63-57, over Iona in a Bracketbuster game last weekend.

UMaine is sliding, having gone 1-7 since a 3-3 start to league play. A play-in game appointment would be the second straight for the Black Bears. The last time that happened was 1997, '98.

Probable starters
Boston U.
G - Corey Lowe, 6-2, Jr. ... 16.6 points, 4.1 rebounds, 4 assists
G - John Holland, 6-5, So. ... Player of Year candidate, 18.1 ppg, 5.4 rpg
F - Matt Wolff, 6-6, Sr. ... Does the dirty work
F - Scott Brittain, 6-9, Jr. ... Overshadowed but effective
F - Jake O'Brien, 6-8, Fr. ... Probable Rookie of the Year
UMaine
G - Mark Socoby, 6-5, Jr. ... Needs 9 to reach 1,000 mark
G - Junior Bernal, 6-5, Jr. ... Bears need all-around play
G - Gerald McLemore, 6-3, Fr. ... Double figures 6 straight games
F - Malachi Peay, 6-5, So. ... Aggressive tone a must
F - Sean McNally, 6-7, So. ... Confidence should be growing
Notes
A young team with two juniors out for the season, Terriers don't substitute much as starting five logs heavy minutes. Probably not an issue against Maine's zone, however. ... UMaine heavy underdogs in final two games, needs to show some fight leading into play-in game versus Hartford.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

NEDA taking on men's team

Canada's National Elite Development Academy boys' team - with Black Bear recruits Mike Allison and Murphy Burnatowski - is scheduled to take on the semi-pro Guelph Phoenix on Sunday.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Shaw shines

Wonder if Thornton Academy sophomore Andrew Shaw is on the UMaine radar screen? Took in the Western Maine Class A championship game between Thornton and Portland Saturday night and immediately noticed Shaw.

He finished with 13 points in a low-scoring game that Thornton won. Shaw is a lanky, 6-5 forward who looks to have a pretty good outside shooting touch. According to the New England Recruiting Report, he is the No. 26 sophomore in New England.

Didn't really see other facets of his game because there wasn't any flow (lots of fouls, turnovers and free throw shooting) to the contest, but he looks like he has a good feel and moves around the floor smoothly.

Maybe he'll be a mobile 6-6, 6-7 guy by the time he graduates. And if he retains and improves that shooting stroke, then you've got something.
Thornton Academy will play Edward Little (Troy Barnies' old school) for the state title.

A look at the rooks

UMaine has begun campaigning for Gerald McLemore as a Rookie of the Year candidate in America East. The San Diego native has put together a solid season and is a bright spot in an otherwise dismal year for the Black Bears. But is he a legit contender for the conference's top rookie honor?

It's fairly easy to whittle the candidates down to five clear-cut contenders: McLemore, Jake O'Brien (Boston U.), Bryan Dougher (Stony Brook), Tommy Brenton (Stony Brook) and Chauncey Gilliam (Maryland-Baltimore County). These five stand head and shoulders above the rest of the first-year class.

Garvey Young at Vermont and Kyrie Sutton at Binghamton have contributed some good play, but they just haven't logged the minutes of the top five.

Let's look at how the five compare in seven statistical categories (5 points for a No. 1 rank, 4 for No. 2, etc.):

Points per game
O'Brien, 12.4, McLemore, 12.1, Dougher, 11.1, Gilliam, 10.8, Brenton, 6.8.
Rebounds per game
Brenton, 8.9, Gilliam, 4.6, O'Brien, 4.4, McLemore, 2.6, Dougher, 1.6.
Assists per game
Dougher, 2.0, Brenton, 1.6, McLemore, 1.1, O'Brien, .8, Gilliam, .5.
Steals per game
Brenton, 1.8, McLemore, 1.4, Dougher, 1.1, Gilliam, .7, O'Brien, .4.
Field goal percentage
Gilliam, .541, Brenton, .504, O'Brien, .400, McLemore, .374, Dougher, .337.
Free throw percentage
McLemore, .791, O'Brien, .764, Gilliam, .760, Dougher, .757, Brenton, .585.
3-point percentage
Gilliam, .481, Dougher, .380, O'Brien, .375, McLemore, .356, Brenton, .345.

Point totals
23. O'Brien
22. McLemore
21. Gilliam
19. Brenton, Dougher

Categories where each appears in the America East Top 20
McLemore: Points per game (17th), 3-point field goals (fourth).
O'Brien: Points per game (15th), free throw percent (10th), 3-point percent (eighth), 3-point field goals (seventh), blocked shots (sixth).
Dougher: Points per game (19th), 3-point percent (seventh), 3-point field goals (fifth).
Brenton: Rebounds per game (first), steals per game (sixth).
Gilliam: Rebounds per game (19th), field goal percent (fourth).

Summary
The big question; does Brenton's status as the top rebounder in America East overshadow the all-around performances of the other four. I'd be more inclined to say yes if Brenton were doing just a little more in some of the other areas. Just like Brenton, Dougher has played a key role in Stony Brook's rise in the standings (remember, this is a program that had played in five straight play-in games until this year). Eliminate Dougher and Brenton.

That leaves Gilliam, O'Brien and McLemore. They are nearly equal. O'Brien and McLemore have been a little more consistent beginning of season to end. Gilliam is probably finishing the regular season as strong as any of the above mentioned five. What hurts McLemore is that he's putting up a solid season on a poor team. That may not be fair, but it will be weighed when the coaches vote. O'Brien and Boston University were in the championship race until last week and Gilliam has helped UMBC rally to stay in the mix.

If I had a vote, right now it'd be O'Brien, Gilliam, McLemore, Brenton, Dougher. In that order.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Owes DNP

Senior guard Kaimondre Owes did not play in the 80-69 loss at Albany. Owes averages eight points a game. There was no explanation of his absence in the UMaine pre- or post-game notes. Owes scored 20 in the Black Bears' win over Albany in Orono.

According to post-game notes in the Albany Times Union, Owes missed the game due to illness.

Albany 80, Black Bears 69

The America East play-in game is set. The Black Bears and Hartford will square off Friday night, March 6 at 7 p.m. to open the league tournament. The winner, most likely, will get Binghamton in the quarterfinals. The Bearcats will secure the No. 1 seed with a win at home against UMBC next week.

This is the second consecutive year the Black Bears will take part in the play-in round. Last year, UMaine lost to Stony Brook. The last time UMaine made consecutive play-in apperances was 1997 and 1998.

Against Albany, UMaine led by as many as nine points (at least it wasn't double-digits) twice in the first half, but yielded a 10-0 run in the final two minutes to trail 35-34 at the break.

UMaine went up 56-52 midway through the second frame, but Albany poured it on, went on a 20-2 run, and closed out the visitors.

For at least the fifth time this season, UMaine yielded a career high point total to an opponent. Albany's Jerel Hastings, starting due to injuries and a suspension and because it was senior day, had a career-best 19 points. His 10 rebounds were also a career high-water mark.

Since opening the league season with a 3-3 record, UMaine has gone 1-7. The Black Bears are 9-18 overall, 4-10 America East. Albany (14-13, 6-8) stopped a five-game losing streak and moved into a fifth-place tie. If the tourney started today, the Great Danes would be the sixth seed.

Sean McNally had 15 points and eight rebounds for the Black Bears. Junior Bernal had 16 points and six rebounds. Troy Barnies added 15 points and Gerald McLemore 14.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Pre-game scratches

According to the Times Union in Albany, the Great Danes will be without three players (Anthony Raffa, Louis Barraza and Scotty McRae) for their game with the Black Bears Sunday.

Raffa, a freshman guard, is a starter and averages 10 points a game.

Face time

Another motivating factor for teams to stay out of the play-in game: Face time. Publicity. Recruiting run.

America East will receive unprecedented television coverage for the upcoming conference tournament. The league and the University at Albany recently announced that Time Warner Cable will televise the entire quarterfinal round from SEFCU Arena.

It's the first time in league history that all quarterfinal round games will appear on TV and somebody (the loser of the play-in game) will not get any regional publicity.

Lose in the play-in game and fans who tune in on television won't even know the school exists. I know, it seems pretty insignificant. But in this world of instant gratification, perception is reality. And if you're not around on Saturday of the league tournament, it's as if you weren't there.

UMaine (4-9, 9-17) at Albany (5-8, 13-13)

Sunday, Feb. 22, 2 p.m.

Probable Starters
UAlbany
G - Tim Ambrose, 6-0, Sr. ... solid, 13.5 points, 5.2 rebounds a game
G - Anthony Raffa, 6-0, Fr. ... Jersey guy, 10.3 ppg, 2 assists
F - Will Harris, 6-6, Jr. ... Virginia transfer, 13.2 ppg, 6.5 rpg
F - Brian Connelly, 6-8, Sr. ... Hits mid-range shot, 7.8 ppg, 4.9 rpg
C - Brett Gifford, 6-11, Jr. ... 2.2 ppg, 3.8 rpg
UMaine
G - Andrew Rogers, 5-9, Fr. ... Hit three that stopped UNH's 18-0 run
G - Mark Socoby, 6-5, Jr. ... Be strong with the ball
G - Gerald McLemore, 6-3, Fr. ... 12.1 ppg is second on team
F - Sean McNally, 6-7, So. ... Aggressive play can set tone
F - Malachi Peay, 6-5, So. ... Bears best scorer around hoop

Notes
Albany has lost five straight and looks for help from forward Jerel Hastings (6-5, Sr.), forward Scotty McRae (6-8, Jr.) and guard/forward Louis Barraza (6-5, So.).
Black Bears need veteran guard Junior Bernal (6-5, Jr.) to finish season strong for any hopes of improving league standing. Forward Troy Barnies (6-7, So.) and guard Kaimondre Owes (6-4, Sr.) have provided some spark. ... Team must hit glass better than second half of UNH game if they want to win vs. rugged Danes.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Last Chance Saloon

Sunday's trip west out the Mass Pike might well be called Last Chance Saloon. When the Black Bears saddle up for their game at Albany, it'll be their best and, most likely, final bullet in an attempt to get themselves out of eighth place and play-in game jail.

With one week remaining in the America East season, UMaine is staring at a second consecutive berth in the conference tourney play-in game, which matches the No. 8 and 9 teams.

A win over Albany would move the Black Bears into a seventh-place tie with the Great Danes, but UMaine would hold the first tie-breaker with a season sweep. After Sunday's showdown at SEFCU Arena, both teams will have two games remaining in which they'll be underdogs. Albany closes with roadies, New Hampshire and Maryland-Baltimore County while the Black Bears visit Boston University and end the regular season at home vs. Vermont.

The Black Bears will try to bounce back from another in a growing string of tough losses. For the fourth time in America East play, UMaine Thursday lost a game in which it held a double-figure lead. The loss to New Hampshire was also at least the fourth time the Black Bears have given up a career high point total to an opponent: (UNH, Dane Diliegro, 21; Hartford, Michael Turner, 26; Boston U., Jake O'Brien, 24; Quinnipiac, Justin Rutty, 30).

SEFCU questions
Can the Black Bears put together a consistent, 40-minute effort? ... Do either of these teams have any fight left with the conference tourney straight ahead? ... Who will win the effort statistics (i.e., rebounding, steals, deflections, charges taken)?

After going back and watching the tape of UMaine's implosion at New Hampshire, it was quite clear which team was making the hustle plays for the final 10 minutes of the game. As Gerald McLemore astutely said after the game, "(New Hampshire) made a run, threw a punch and we didn't counterpunch."

It's high noon and high time the Black Bears display more court toughness and poise.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

New Hampshire 63, Black Bears 54

They all hurt. But this one really, really hurt. Bad. For the fourth time during the America East season, the Black Bears built themselves a double-digit lead only to ultimately fall in the end.

Needing a win for a season sweep that would move them up to sixth-place in the league standings and out of the play-in game of the conference tournament, the Black Bears put on a solid display of basketball for about 32, 33 minutes. And then it all vanished.

Thursday night in Durham, New Hampshire trailed the Black Bears 48-38 with about 7 minutes and change to go. The Wildcats went on an inexplicable 18-0 run and won going away in front of the largest crowd I've ever seen at Lundholm Gym (many of them left at halftime of a close game, which is a story for another paragraph).

The Wildcats moved to 11-14 overall, 6-7 in America East, and is on the verge of solidifying a place in the tournament's 4-5 game. Maine drops to 9-17, 4-9 and must win at Albany Sunday to have any hope of getting out of the play-in game.

It'd be easy to point to a brutal offensive foul call against Gerald McLemore as the reason for UMaine's implosion. But teams must be able to withstand blown calls that go against them. That one call didn't cause a six-minute scoring drought.

McLemore was the only Black Bear in double figures with 15. Sean McNally (eight points, 10 rebounds) waged a battle all night with the Wildcats' Dane Diliegro (21 points, 12 rebounds).

Mark Socoby had nine points and Kaimondre Owes eight for UMaine.

Turnovers really stung as UNH tallied 13 points off 16 Black Bear miscues. Many of them coming at the most critical junctures. The Wildcats only turned it over 10 times for two UMaine points.

I just took another glance at my final stat sheet (Thanks, Jim) and noticed the attendance was 2,214. It was a great atmosphere for a college game even if most of the students left at the break. Heck, there were even people leaving when the Black Bears went up 10. The thought ocurred to me at that point, UMaine must keep them heading for the exits and take the air out of the building.

But it ended up going the other way; somehow it was the Black Bears that went pffffft.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

UMaine (9-16, 4-8) at New Hampshire (10-14, 5-7)

Thursday, Feb. 19, 7 p.m.

Tonight's game begins a four-game stretch in which the Black Bears have an opportunity to earn their way out of the play-in game of the America East tournament. Because UMaine has been unable to take care of business on the home floor, they'll have to do it the hard way as the club plays three of its final four games on the road.

New Hampshire enters the game in fifth place and coming off a wire-to-wire, 78-59, victory at Albany. The eighth-place Black Bears have had a week off after dusting Hartford to snap a five-game losing streak. The skid immediately followed a double-overtime win over UNH.

A win tonight would vault UMaine two spots to sixth-place in the standings.

Probable starters

New Hampshire
G - Tyrece Gibbs, 6-3, Sr. ... Fourth active scorer in America East
G - Alvin Abreu, 6-2, So. ... 12. 7 points a game
G - Tyrone Conley, 6-3, So. ... 8.8 points
C - Dane Diliegro, 6-8, So. ... 5.4 ppg, 7 rebounds, fifth in AE
F - Radar Onguetou, 6-5, So. ... 5 points, 5.3 rebounds
Wildcat notes
Eric Gilchrese, a 6-foot senior guard, averages 9 points. Rony Tchatchoua, a 6-6 sophomore forward, provides frontcourt depth ... UNH loves to shoot the three and set season highs for shooting percentage and three-point shooting in its win at Albany ... Gibbs is leading scorer at 13.8 a game ... Wildcats were first America East team to outrebound Albany.
UMaine
G - Junior Bernal, 6-5, Jr. ... Coming off six-assist effort vs. Hartford
G - Mark Socoby, 6-6, Jr. ... Needs 27 for 1,000 career points
G - Gerald McLemore, 6-3, Fr. ... Second in scoring among freshmen
F - Sean McNally, 6-7, So. ... Third in AE with five double-doubles
F - Malachi Peay, 6-6, So. ... Needs to avoid bad fouls
Black Bear notes
This tilt may well come down to who gets more production off the bench ... Bears need forward Troy Barnies and guards Kaimondre Owes and Andrew Rogers to provide some punch ... A win gives UM a season sweep.

UHart to host tournaments

As expected, America East announced today that the first combined men's and women's basketball tournament will take place next year at the University of Hartford's Chase Arena. The tourney is set for March 4-7.

The play-in games, quarterfinal and semifinal rounds will be played in Hartford, Thursday through Sunday, before the championship games are played the following weekend at the home of the highest seed.

Both men's and women's play-in games (featuring the No. 8 and No. 9 seeds) will be held Thursday, March 4, while the women’s quarterfinals will follow on Friday, March 5. The men’s quarterfinals will be scheduled for Saturday, March 6 and both the men’s and women’s semifinal tilts will take place Sunday, March 7.

The highest seeds remaining in both the men’s and women’s tournament will host the championship games with the men’s title game on Saturday, March 13 and the women’s final on Sunday, March 14.

A nice move by America East. The decision to combine the tournaments just might provide a short-term boost to both events, both economically and in interest. Fans who would otherwise attend only the men's or women's tournament will be given an opportunity to take in some extra games and it could positively impact their attendance during the following regular season.

For myself, I'll certainly be very interested in attending the Black Bears women's games. Because of time, distance and cost constraints, it just hasn't been possible for me to attend as many other UMaine events as I'd like. It forces some fans to focus their interest. This move will bring more basketball under one roof. And, for a hoop junkie, that's a win-win.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Tourney announcement

America East has apparently scheduled a news conference for Wednesday afternoon that is expected to address plans for the 2010 men's and women's basketball tournaments.

About a month ago, during a televised America East game, Commisioner Patrick Nero announced America East would conduct a combined men's and women's basketball tournament at the same site next year. Wednesday's announcement will take place in Hartford, prior to the televised Binghamton and Hartford men's game.

It would appear that either the University of Hartford's Chase Arena or the Hartford Civic Center will serve as host for the event. During his previous announcement, Nero said that only the site -- neutral or on-campus -- had yet to be determined.

Currently, America East's women's tournament takes place one week after the men's. With the change, both men's and women's championship games would take place a week later at the home of the higher seed. That would be a change for the women's tournament, which plays its championship as part of the tournament.

This year's men's tournament is set for March 6-8 at the University at Albany's SEFCU Arena. The women's tourney is a week later at Hartford.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Call it Tie-breaker Week

The results from the past few days of America East basketball have set up a golden opportunity for the Black Bears to improve their seeding for the conference tournament ... and stay out of the play-in game.

UMaine can leapfrog the two teams in front of them with a win Thursday at New Hampshire. Victories this week over the Wildcats and at Albany (Sunday) would also give the Black Bears series sweeps over both and the tie-breaker advantage when it comes to seeding for the upcoming America East tournament.

Binghamton, Vermont and Boston U. are locks for the top three seeds. Hartford is a lock for the play-in game at No. 9. But seeds 4 through 8 are a big jig-saw puzzle. Where does UMaine fit in?

Let's see if the Black Bears can summon up their best basketball of the season.

Here are the teams fighting for the fourth- through eighth-place positions, their current records and remaining schedule:

6-7 Stony Brook (BU, at Hartford, at UNH)
6-7 UMBC (Vermont, at Binghamton, Albany)
5-7 UNH (Maine, at Binghamton, Albany, Stony Brook)
5-8 Albany (Maine, at UNH, at UMBC)
4-8 Maine (at UNH, at Albany, at BU, Vermont)

And now, our Black Bears Pit projections:

1. Binghamton, 13-3 ... Bearcats win tie-breaker for top spot
2. Vermont, 13-3 ... Two losses to Binghamton
3. Boston U., 12-4 ... Close schedule with 3 wins
4. UNH, 8-8 ... With favorable schedule, Cats close 3-1
5. Stony Brook, 7-9 ... Seawolves go 1-2, win tie-breaker over UMBC
6. UMBC, 7-9 ... Defending champs close 1-2
7. Albany, 6-10 ... Danes finish 1-2
8. UMaine, 4-12 ... Heart says 2-2, mind & past performance says 0-4
9. Hartford, 2-14 ... split season series vs. Black Bears