Saturday, January 31, 2009

Recruiting link

Here's a look at Black Bears recruits Murphy Burnatowski (No. 10) and Mike Allison (No. 14). The video is from their National Elite Development Academy game vs. Bridgton Academy on Jan. 8.

Mangisto Arop (No. 9) for the Canadian junior team reportedly signed an LOI with Gonzaga.

Binghamton 83, Black Bears 77

Another double-digit lead, another tough America East loss. For the third consecutive game, the Black Bears worked their way to a double-figure lead only to fall in the end.

Binghamton Saturday got out of a 15-point, first-half hole and downed UMaine 83-77 at the Events Center in Vestal, N.Y. The Bearcats moved to 13-8 overall, 6-3 America East. The Black Bears tumble to 8-14, 3-6. A crowd in excess of 4,000 watched as Binghamton celebrated the fifth anniversary of the opening of the Events Center.

The loss, combined with Stony Brook's 56-55 win over UMBC Saturday, leaves UMaine in eighth-place. The Black Bears return home for a critical three-game stretch, beginning Tuesday against Stony Brook. UMaine's hopes of moving up in the standings and avoiding the dreaded play-in game at the league tournament, depend heavily on a successful stretch against Stony Brook, UMBC and Hartford.

At Binghamton, UMaine jumped out to a 25-10 lead and still held a 47-33 advantage four minutes into the second half. The Bearcats turned it around ... and quick. Within a four-minute span in the second half, Binghamton went on a 19-4 run to take the lead.

Mark Socoby (17 points) led four Black Bears in double figures. Troy Barnies had 13 with six rebounds. Kaimondre Owes added 12 points. Sean McNally tallied 12 points and was one of three Bears with seven rebounds. Gerald McLemore chipped in 10 points.

Junior Bernal had seven points, seven rebounds and six assists while Malachi Peay put in six points and pulled down seven rebounds.

America East's leading scorer, D.J. Rivera, paced Binghamton with 23 points. Malik Alvin had 20.

Friday, January 30, 2009

UMaine (8-13, 3-5) at Binghamton (12-8, 5-3)

Saturday, Jan. 31, 2 p.m.
Both teams enter the game coming off losses in which they held substantial leads. The Bearcats led by 17 at UMBC before tumbling, 84-78. The Black Bears visit Vestal on the heels of a 10-point loss at Vermont (after leading by 10 in the first half) and an 11-point loss at home to Boston U. (after leading by 18 in the first half). ... Binghamton is playing without third-leading scorer Dwayne Jackson (11.7 ppg), who was suspended indefinitely a little more than a week ago. He scored 12 points in the Bearcats' 70-62 win in Orono this year. ... Binghamton has led America East in attendance for five straight seasons and is well on its way to making it six straight, averaging 3,184.

Probable starters:

G - D.J. Rivera, 6-4, Jr. ... St. Joe's transfer America East's top scorer
G - Malik Alvin, 6-0, Jr. ... Nephew of football legend, the late Walter Payton
G - Tiki Mayben, 6-3, Jr. ... Well-traveled with multiple NCAA stops
F - Reggie Fuller, 6-6, Sr. ... Fourth on league shooting chart
C - Kyrie Sutton, 6-9, Fr. ... Provides size, but Bearcats go small a lot
Bearcat leaders
Rivera (20.2 points, 6 rebounds); Fuller (8.7 ppg, 6.6 rpg); Alvin (12.2 ppg, 4.3 assists); Mayben (8.8 ppg, 4.2 apg)
Black Bears
F - Sean McNally, 6-7, Soph. ... Anchor on the interior
F - Malachi Peay, 6-6, Soph. ... A legit key to Bears' fortunes
G - Mark Socoby, 6-6, Jr. ... Strong game last time out
G - Junior Bernal, 6-5, Jr. ... Toughness is needed on the floor
G - Gerald McLemore, 6-3, Fr. ... Not a freshman anymore
Black Bears bench
When Kaimondre Owes, Troy Barnies, Svetoslav Chetinov and Andrew Rogers provide productive minutes, UMaine is loads better. They must contribute valuable minutes for UMaine to improve and begin winning more games.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Vermont 75, Black Bears 65

UMaine led for the first 31 minutes and 35 seconds on the road before succumbing at Vermont. Evan Fjeld's hoop gave the Catamounts their first lead at 54-52. After a Junior Bernal hoop knotted it at 56 with 6:44 left, Vermont (15-6, 6-2 America East) finished the contest with a 19-9 run.

The loss is the second straight for UMaine after it held a double-digit lead. The Black Bears led by as many as 10 in the first half against Vermont and as many as eight in the second half.

The Black Bears (8-13, 3-5) fall to seventh place and will finish the two-game road trip with a game at Binghamton Saturday. The Bearcats fell out of a first-place tie with a loss at UMBC Wednesday.

Vermont's Marqus Blakely went wild with 23 points and 20 rebounds, helping his team to a whopping 39-25 edge on the glass.

Mark Socoby led the Black Bears with 20 points and six rebounds. Kaimondre Owes had 15 and Bernal 10. Sean McNally finished with eight points and six rebounds.

Frontline frosh

With this week's games marking the midway point of the conference season, let's take a look at our list of top first-year players in America East:

Tommy Brenton, F, 6-5, Stony Brook
Columbia, Md.
Has moved to the top of the league rebounding chart at 8.9 a game ... He's sixth in steals (1.7) and averages 7.8 points a game ... He's been named AE Rookie of the Week three times.

Bryan Dougher, G, 6-1, Stony Brook
Scotch Plains, N.J.
Leads all freshmen scorers at 12.6 a game, No. 15 in America East ... Tops AE in three-point accuracy (43 percent) and three-pointers made (54) ... He's also fifth in the league in minutes played per game ... Like teammate Brenton, he's won the Rookie of the Week three times.

Gerald McLemore, G, 6-3, Maine
San Diego, Calif.
His 11.8 points a game is 18th in America East. He also checks in with 4.4 rebounds, 1.5 steals and 2.5 assists per game ... He's third in America East with 51 three-pointers made.

Jake O'Brien, F, 6-8, Boston University
Weymouth, Mass.
Averaging 11.9 points (17th on AE scoring chart) ... He's No. 10 with a 37-percent mark in three-point shooting and 10th in the league in minutes played.

Chauncey Gilliam, G, 6-5, UMBC
Columbia, Md.
Second in America East shooting from the floor (55 percent). Averages 10.1 points and four rebounds.

Honorable mention: Jeff Pelage, 6-9, Boston U; Dallis Joyner, 6-7, Stony Brook; Anthony Raffa, 6-1, Albany; Kyrie Sutton, 6-9, Binghamton; Genesis Maciel, 6-9, Hartford; Garvey Young, 6-4, Vermont.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

UMaine (8-12, 3-4) at Vermont (14-6, 5-2)

Wednesday, Jan. 28, 7:30 p.m.
Vermont has won five straight and is led by America East's reigning player of the year, forward Marqus Blakely (15.2 points, 8.5 rebounds ), guard Mike Trimboli (15.8 points, 4.7 assists) and forward Colin McIntosh (13.2 points, 5.5 rebounds). All three are in the top eight in America East field goal percentage.

As a team, Vermont leads the league in shooting at 48 percent. The Black Bears are seventh at 41 percent.

Black Bears lead the all-time series, 68-48, but have dropped four of the past five to the Catamounts. The game is scheduled to be televised on NESN.

Probable starters:

G - Mike Trimboli, 6-1, Sr. ... needs 2 assists to break school career record
G - Nick Vier, 6-1, Jr.
G - Maurice Joseph, 6-4, Jr. ... transfer from Michigan State
F- Marqus Blakely, 6-5, Jr. ... very good around the hoop
F - Colin McIntosh, 6-8, Sr. ... has become consistent scorer, rebounder

Black Bears
G- Mark Socoby, 6-6, Jr. ... closing in on 1,000 career points
G - Junior Bernal, 6-5, Jr. ... key to game is getting to the rim
G- Gerald McLemore, 6-3, Fr. ... opponents play for outside shot
F - Sean McNally, 6-7, Soph. ... need his offense down low
F - Malachi Peay, 6-6, Soph. ... stay out of foul trouble

Can the Black Bears pick off one of these tough roadies (Vermont, Binghamton) this week. Trips to Burlington and Vestal, N.Y., have been painful in recent years. ... When UMaine tips off with the Catamounts Wednesday, it'll be the third time in four games the Bears have taken on a first-place team. It could go to four out of five against Binghamton, which is currently tied with Vermont and Boston U. at the top of the AE heap. Binghamton plays at UMBC Wednesday.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Boston U. 73, Black Bears 62

In America East, the game is played outside-in. Year after year, most teams at this level of Division 1 basketball are weighted heavily toward the perimeter game. It is not uncommon for teams to primarily use three- and four-guard lineups.

So, it stands to reason, if you don't defend the 3-point line vigorously, hoop-suicide is the likely result.

In three of the Black Bears' four America East losses this year, the opposition has made 10 or more 3-pointers. Binghamton, Hartford and Boston University combined to hit 34 of 77 long-range shots in wins over the Black Bears. That's a robust 44 percent.

Flip to today's Alfond Arena date with Boston University and it's not hard to pinpoint the reason the Black Bears were unable to hold an 18-point lead. The Terriers (10-9, 5-2) climbed back into the game and then pulled away from UMaine (8-12, 3-4) with a three-point barrage, hitting 12 of 28. That equaled Hartford's performance against the Black Bears. Binghamton was 10 for 21.

The Terriers entered the game averaging a league leading 8.8 bombs per game, so it was no surprise that once they fell behind, they'd be willing to let fly.

Freshman Jake O'Brien (24 points, 6 rebounds) and John Holland (23 points) combined to inflict most of the damage, going a combined 9 for 17 on threes.

The Black Bears, who have roadies against Vermont and Binghamton coming up this week, were led by Mark Socoby (16 points, 5 rebounds) and Sean McNally (10 points, 8 rebounds). Junior Bernal had eight points, seven rebounds and six assists. But it wasn't enough to offset a 36-18 advantage BU had from three-point range.

The loss leaves the Black Bears locked in a scrum for America East middle class status. The Terriers, Vermont and Binghamton appear on the verge of creating some seperation from the rest of the league.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Recruit report

Black Bear recruits Murphy Burnatowski (Waterloo, Ontario) and Mike Allison (Lynen, Ontario) recently helped their National Elite Development Academy (NEDA) team to a trio of victories, including an 84-67 verdict over Bridgton Academy.

Next up for NEDA is an appearance Feb. 5-7 at the Rhode Island Prep Tournament at the University of Rhode Island. NEDA will take on Maine Central Institute on Feb. 5, Patterson School on Feb. 6 and finish Feb. 7 against St. Thomas More.

Jacob McLemore, a guard at Scripps Ranch H.S. in San Diego, is averaging 11.1 points and has helped his team to an 11-8 record, good for fourth place in the Western Section. McLemore had six points Tuesday in a 62-58 win over first-place University City.

Boston U. (9-9, 4-2) at UMaine (8-11, 3-3)

Sunday, Jan. 25, 1 p.m.
Boston University visits Alfond Arena coming off consecutive multiple-overtime victories this week. Monday, the Terriers topped Stony Brook, 99-97, in four overtimes. It only took two extra sessions for the Terriers and UMBC to decide things Thursday with BU winning, 80-77.

BU, the pre-season selection of coaches to win America East, comes in winners of three straight and four out of five.

The Terriers are getting huge production from 6-5 sophomore combo guard John Holland (17.5 point a game, 5.4 rebounds) and 6-2 junior guard Corey Lowe (18.5 points, 3.5 assists). Both players are threats from 3-point range, shooting at 40-percent on the season.

Holland (pictured) has won two straight player of the week awards and is seventh in the league in overall field goal percentage (.465).

Jake O'Brien, a 6-8 freshman, has helped picked up the slack for injured teammates Carlos Strong and Tyler Morris. O'Brien is averaging 11.3 points and 4.3 rebounds. He's also someone the Black Bears must be aware of behind the arc as he checks in at 36 percent from deep. The Terriers lead America East, averaging 8.8 three-pointers per game.

Morris and Strong, a pair of guards, were lost to knee injuries a few weeks ago and are done for the season. Strong is a Portland native.

Black Bears
For UMaine, it's the final game of a three-game homestand and an opportunity to strengthen its place in the middle of the America East standings. A victory by the Black Bears would assure that at least seven of the nine teams would have at least three losses at the halfway point of the America East season. A win would also surpass last season's league effort.

Defensively, UMaine must find a way to get the Terriers out of their comfort zone and force Lowe, Holland and O'Brien to make tough shots. With BU maybe having a short bench because of the injuries, and coming off the overtime games, maybe the Black Bears will force the action a bit.

Offensively, the Black Bears are showing signs of developing multiple threats. The inside play of Sean McNally continues to impress AE coaches and with the emergence of Malachi Peay since coming back from two injuries, UMaine isn't relying solely on its outside shooting as much. The Black Bears must win the battle of the boards and keep close tabs on BU's big three.

Protect the home court and then hit the road on a roll should be the Black Bears' mantra.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Binghamton suspends Jackson

Binghamton coach Kevin Broadus Monday announced he has suspended senior guard Dwayne Jackson indefinitely. Jackson had 12 points and six rebounds in the Bearcats' 70-62 win over the Black Bears earlier this season. The Black Bears visit Binghamton on Jan. 31.

Greene playing streak ends
UMBC guard Jay Greene's streak of 101 consecutive games came to an end Monday. The America East assist leader was held out of the Retrievers' game at Vermont after suffering a concussion in the previous game.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Black Bears 78, New Hampshire 75 2OT

Trailing by six with 54 seconds left in regulation, the Black Bears rallied to force overtime Monday night. Both teams traded big-shots through two overtime periods before host UMaine withstood several last-ditch three-point attempts by New Hampshire and held on for a key America East victory.

Scoreless for much of the game, freshman guard Gerald McLemore made several huge shots down the stretch for the Black Bears (8-11, 3-3 America East) and finished with a team-high 17 points. He was one of five Bears in double figures. Tyrece Gibbs (22 points, 8 rebounds) and Dane DiLiegro (12 points, 12 rebounds) paced the Wildcats (7-9, 2-2).

The win is the second straight for the Black Bears and puts them smack-dab in the middle of the America East standings. Just ahead of UMaine is Boston University, which visits Alfond Arena Sunday.

After a UMaine turnover, the Wildcats had possession and a 61-55 advantage with 57 seconds left in the regulation. It didn't look good, but the Black Bears followed up with three straight clutch defensive plays.

Mark Socoby stole the ball then scored on a return assist from Gerald McLemore. Junior Bernal followed that up with a steal and hoop with 49 seconds to go, cutting the UNH lead to two. After a Black Bears timeout, Malachi Peay got into the act, coming up with another steal with just 15 seconds on the clock. After consecutive timeouts, one by each club, McLemore sent the crowd of 1,083 into a frenzy and the game to overtime with a hoop with 6 seconds showing.

Bernal (pictured) had a huge all-around game for the Black Bears with nine points, six rebounds, six assists and three steals. Sean McNally battled with DiLiegro all night and had a double-double to show for it with 10 points and 10 rebounds. Also in double figures were Malachi Peay (12 points, 7 rebounds, 3 steals), Kaimondre Owes (11 points) and Socoby (11 points).

UMaine won despite a tough night at the free throw line (23 for 37, 63 percent). New Hampshire, which had 20 more three-point attempts than the Black Bears also struggled at the stripe, making only 3 of 12 attempts (25 percent).

Sunday, January 18, 2009

New Hampshire (7-8, 2-1) at UMaine (7-11, 2-3)

Monday, Jan. 19, 7 p.m.
Up is down and down is up as the first-place, yes, first-place, University of New Hampshire Wildcats visit Alfond Arena Monday for a clash of longtime rivals. The game will be the 170th meeting, with UMaine holding a 108-61 advantage.

UNH makes the trip up I-95 having won four of its past five games. The lone defeat, however, was a doozy as Boston University blitzed the Wildcats, 68-37, in Boston. In that game, UNH was 2 for 33 on three-point attempts. The Wildcats have a chance to move to 3-1 in America East play for the first time since the 1991-92 season.

For the Black Bears, it's an opportunity to get to .500 in the league and stay in the middle of the standings.

The Wildcats are led by 6-3 senior guard Tyrece Gibbs (13.5 points, 4.1 rebounds). Center Dane DiLiegro (5 points, 7.3 rebounds) posted America East's best single-game rebounding performance to date with 17 against Hartford. DiLiegro, a 6-8 sophomore, and the Black Bears' Sean McNally (8.7 points, 7.3 rebounds) are two of the league's best offensive rebounders.

Guard Alvin Abreu, a 6-2 sophomore, checks in at 12.4 points a game. Guard Tyrone Conley chips in 10 points a game as the Wildcats are third in the league with an average of eight 3-pointers per game. Another guard, Eric Gilchrese averages 9.2 points.

Last season: The teams split the season series with the Black Bears taking a 75-72 overtime verdict in Durham, N.H. The Wildcats returned the favor with an 81-75 win at Orono.

Notes and observations ...

... from the Black Bear trail

... UMaine guard Junior Bernal and Albany forward Will Harris were teammates for a year at Maine Central Institute in Pittsfield, where they were coached by former Black Bear Ed Jones. The two embraced after the game and chatted for a few moments before heading to their locker rooms. UMaine coach Ted Woodward also embraced Harris following the contest.

... Coming off three successive performances in which he established career highs in points, Black Bears forward/guard Malachi Peay was inserted into the starting lineup. Peay, a 6-6 sophomore, is showing an ability to find creases and cracks in the traffic around the hoop.

... Travon Wilcher, a 6-7 forward out of Springfield, Mass., was in the arena. No word yet on whether his transfer to UMaine is official. When approached, he politely acknowledged he couldn't talk on the matter. Wilcher prepped at Lee Academy in Maine before going to UMass. His coach at Lee Academy, Carl Parker, was at Saturday's game and spent some time huddling with Wilcher.

... Maine's solid performance on the defensive end included mixing in some halfcourt trapping that delayed Albany from getting into its offensive sets. Albany was hovering around 30 percent shooting from the field until late in the game when the Black Bears gave up a number of easy hoops underneath.

... For quite some time, America East game-plans for the Black Bears usually include some full-court pressing. Saturday, the Black Bears not only were breaking the press, they were scoring off of it. Nothing gets a team out of a scrambling defense faster than giving up lay-ups and dunks at the other end. Sean McNally's "And-1" flush at the end of one press-breaker provided a big emotional lift.

... Saturday's UMaine win, combined with the results from around America East, leaves every team in the league with at least two losses with one exception: New Hampshire. The Wildcats will enter Monday night's game in Orono in first place at 2-1.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Black Bears 72, Albany 61

Kaimondre Owes scored 20 points in 13 minutes off the bench and the Black Bears came up with a much-needed victory over first-place Albany Saturday. Owes (pictured) was 2 for 2 on 3-pointers and hit eight of nine free throws to pace UMaine.

In a hard-fought contest, the Black Bears extended a 12-point halftime lead to 23 nine minutes into the second half, before the Great Danes (11-7, 3-2 America East) battled back. Albany got as close as nine points, but the Black Bears (7-11, 2-3) made enough shots and free throws to weather the Albany full-court pressure.

With the Great Danes scrambling and slicing the lead to 10 with about 4 minutes left, Mark Socoby (10 points, 6 rebounds) hit one of the biggest shots of the game, nailing a transition 3-pointer from the right side to extend the lead to 63-50.

Sean McNally (14 points, 6 rebounds) and Malachi Peay (11 points, 5 rebounds) joined Owes and Socoby in double figures for the Black Bears. Junior Bernal chipped in eight points and three rebounds.

Will Harris led Albany with 20 points and eight rebounds. Albany entered the game on a three-game winning streak.

The game was crucial for the Black Bears as the beginning of a three-game homestand after a couple tough losses (UMBC, Hartford) on the road last week. New Hampshire visits Alfond Arena Monday night.
Both teams turned the ball over (UMaine 20, Albany 18), but the Black Bears were able to capitalize more often, scoring 29 points off the Great Danes miscues compared to 18 for Albany.
After shooting 45 percent from the floor in its past two games, Albany was held to 29 percent in the first half (39 percent for the game). UMaine connected on 48 percent of its shots from the floor. Albany was forced to pick up its defensive pressure in the second half and it resulted in a huge advantage for the Black Bears (27 for 36) at the foul line. Albany went to the line 12 times and made eight.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Albany (11-6, 3-1) at UMaine (6-11, 1-3)

Saturday, Jan. 17, 1 p.m.
Albany moved into a tie for first place in America East Wednesday when the Great Danes handed Binghamton its first conference loss. The Great Danes have won three straight after losing its league opener at Hartford. The Black Bears have dropped six of seven since defeating Colgate on Dec. 8. The Black Bears have lost nine straight America East games at home, dating to Feb. 25, 2007.

The game is the first of a critical three-game homestand for the Black Bears. If UMaine hopes to make a jump up to the middle of the America East standings, now would be the time to begin that quest. The Great Danes will provide a stark contrast to the Black Bears' last opponent, Hartford. While Hartfood lives from the 3-point line, Albany prefers the game a little closer to the basket. The Great Danes will not back down from hand-to-hand combat. An ominous note for the Black Bears: Albany has shot better than 45 percent from the floor the past two games, well over their season average. Anything less than the season's best performance at both ends of the floor probably won't be enough against the Great Danes.

Great Dane notes: Junior forward Will Harris has posted a double-double in three of the past four games. ... Albany is the top rebounding team in America East, out-boarding its opponents by nearly nine a game. ... 6-0 guard sophomore guard Tim Ambrose (12.5 points, 5.3 rebounds and 2.7 assists) provides Albany with a solid all-around game. ... Harris, a 6-6 transfer from Virginia, scores 11.7 and grabs 5.9 rebounds per game. ... Freshman guard Anthony Raffa (12.1 ppg, 4.4 rpg) scored 22 and 21 points in Albany's past two games. ... Brian Connelly (8 ppg, 4 rpg), a 6-8 senior forward, is one of six Great Danes averaging at least 4 rebounds per game. ... The Great Danes are 3-1 in one-point games this season.

Last year: The teams split the season series with the Black Bears winning, 81-70 at Albany and the Great Danes prevailing, 74-60, at Alfond Arena.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

America East tourney

During an interview that aired at halftime of Wednesday night's Vermont/Boston U. game, America East Commissioner Patrick Nero said the conference will host its 2010 men's and women's basketball tournaments at the same site on the same dates. He said the site, neutral or on-campus, has yet to be decided.

The Metro Atlantic Athletic Association, which has 10 schools, uses this format. America East has nine members.

We can't think of many negatives. The building is already being used so it essentially makes it an around-the-clock affair. The hotels will like it. Economically, for the league, it probably creates some savings.

Black Bears Pit attends the men's tournament every year. Being able to support both UMaine teams in a tournament setting would be fun. It seems logical that there might be some cross-over support both ways among all the schools.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Hartford 76, Black Bears 71

Spot the opposition 13 points to open the game. Allow a team to convert 12 of 28 three-point field goal attempts and odds are pretty good you are not going to fare well. Especially on the road. The Black Bears were guilty on both counts Wednesday night and paid with a loss at Hartford.

UMaine is quickly painting itself into a corner in America East, falling to 6-11 overall and 1-3 in America East. The Hawks, playing without All-America East peformer Joe Zeglinski, moved to 6-11, 2-1.

It's no secret that Hartford lives by the three-point shot. The Hawks set records last season for attempts and 3-pointers made and they've shown the same aggressiveness from behind the arc this year. Still, they torched the Black Bears. Twenty-eight of Hartford's 48 field goal attempts were from long range.

For Maine, the storyline was a familiar one: Long dry spell at some point during the contest (tonight it was at the beginning); work like mad to get back in the game; ultimately run out of gas.

Jaret von Rosenberg paced the Hawks with 26 points (4 of 6 from deep). Michael Turner didn't even bother with a two-point field goal attempt. He was 4 of 6 from behind the arc and had 13 points.

For the third straight game, Malachi Peay set a career high in points, going for 17 to lead UMaine. Gerald McLemore had 13. Mark Socoby had 12 points and seven rebounds. Sean McNally (pictured) posted a double-double (10 points, 13 rebounds).

The Black Bears took 13 more shots than Hartford and made one less.

UMaine now faces a crucial stretch of three home games with no room for error.

Up next is conference front-runner Albany on Saturday. The Great Danes will enter the game coming off a big win against I-88 rival Binghamton.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

UMaine (6-10, 1-2) at Hartford (5-11, 1-1)

Wednesday, Jan. 14, 7 p.m.
Chase Family Arena

Look up and down the America East statistics and there are many similarities between the Black Bears and Hartford. Both appear to favor the three-point arc. Hartford has a better success rate, but the Black Bears are volume shooters. As with most teams in America East year-in and year-out, the clubs are perimeter oriented.

The Black Bears, however, would appear to have a bit of an advantage on the boards where UMaine is in the middle of the pack in rebounding margin while the Hawks are dead last. Hartford is being outrebounded by about nine a game. Sean McNally, Troy Barnies and Malachi Peay need to play strong, but stay out of foul trouble so the Black Bears can exploit this advantage.

Hawk notes: All-Conference guard Joe Zeglinski was recently lost for the season. Zeglinski suffered a torn tendon in his left ankle Dec. 9 against Brown. ... The Hawks still have solid scoring options in 6-0 guard Jaret von Rosenberg (12.9 ppg, pictured), 6-8 forward Morgan Sabia (11.0 ppg) and 6-5 guard/forward Michael Turner (9.9 ppg). Turner is the Hawks leading rebounder at 4.6 a game. ... The Hawks were picked to finish third in the pre-season poll of league coaches.

Last year: Hartford won both games.

Transfer talk

Reports out of central Massachusetts have Travon Wilcher transferring to UMaine from UMass.
Wilcher is a 6-7 freshman forward from Springfield, Mass. He prepped at Lee Academy in Maine. According to a report written in July, Wilcher was part of a logjam of scholarship players at UMass, caught between the Travis Ford and Derek Kellogg regimes.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Exam time is here

Academically speaking, the University of Maine is finished with its exam period. As far as the America East basketball schedule, however, we think final exams have arrived in the form of the next four games.

Beginning with Wednesday night's tilt at Hartford and then the ensuing three-game homestand, it's not a stretch to think the final grade for the Black Bears' season might be traceable to this stretch of games.

Hartford, coming off its first-ever appearance in the league championship game. recently lost emotional leader Joe Zeglinski for the season. The Hawks are still dangerous, as evidenced by their 10-point dusting of Albany (who responded with wins over Boston U. and at Vermont). It would appear the Hawks and Black Bears match up well.

Get a win at Hartford, and the Black Bears would return to Alfond with a 2-2 America East mark and a chance to line itself up for a marked improvement over a year ago.

Then again, the reason this stretch of games is so important is because of what the Black Bears have not been able to do at home ... namely, win. The Alfond confines have been anything but friendly as the Black Bears have lost nine straight league games at home.

After a disappointing loss to Binghamton at home to open the America East season, UMaine went down to Long Island and put together maybe its best wire-to-wire performance of the season. The Black Bears followed that up with a gutty-but-mistake-filled nailbiting loss at defending champion Maryland-Baltimore County.

So just who are the Black Bears? The club that opened the season with three straight wins, won at Stony Brook and pushed UMBC to the limit? Or the Black Bears that are 1-4 at home, including losses to Quinnipiac, Canisius and Harvard?

Mid-term exams begin Wednesday at Hartford and continue with Alfond testing periods against Albany (Jan. 17), New Hampshire (Jan. 19) and Boston University (Jan. 25).

It's time for UMaine to bone up and make the grade.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Recruiting stats

Black Bears recruit Jacob McLemore, brother of freshman guard Gerald McLemore, is leading his Scripps Ranch (San Diego, Calif.) High School in scoring at just over 12 points per game. Scripps Ranch is 9-6 on the season and in fourth place in the Western League of the San Diego Region.
Jacob McLemore is a 6-2 guard and is one of five players on the Scripps Ranch team averaging between 9.6 and 12.1 points per game.
Jacob McLemore is part of a recruiting class that includes two others, 6-6 Murphy Burnatowski of Waterloo, Ontario, and 6-9 Mike Allison of Hamilton, Ontario.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

UMBC 61, Black Bears 59

Down 11 points with 9:39 left, the Black Bears fought their way back into the game, before falling short to host Maryland-Baltimore County. A RAC Arena crowd of 1,238 saw the Retrievers narrowly avoid losing a second straight game at home to open the conference season.

The defending America East champion Retrievers survived a last-second 3-point attempt by Mark Socoby (20 points, 4 rebounds) that rimmed out. UMaine (6-10, 1-2 America East) had four possessions inside the final four minutes with a chance to either tie or take the lead, but missed three 3-point attempts and had one turnover.

UMBC (7-7, 1-1) was led by its two All-America East performers Darryl Proctor (26 points, 8 rebounds) and Jay Greene (11 assists).

Malachi Peay chipped in a career-high 13 points and eight rebounds for the Black Bears. Sean McNally had nine points and six rebounds.

Aided by 12 Black Bears turnovers in the first half, UMBC had an eight-point lead at the intermisssion. UMaine's comeback attempt was slowed by a 61 percent (11 of 18) performance at the foul line.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Black Bears (6-9, 1-1) at UMBC (6-7, 0-1)

Tip-off Saturday at RAC Arena is slated for 7:05 p.m. The game is the middle date of a three-game road swing for the Black Bears.
UMBC is the defending America East champion and is led by two of the most efficient players in the league, forward Darryl Proctor (19.1 points and 9 rebounds per game) and point guard Jay Greene (12.0 ppg, 6.6 apg). Proctor has six double-doubles on the season and five in the past seven games. Greene is shooting 3-pointers at a 38 percent clip coming into the game.

Freshman forward Chauncey Gilliam checks in at 9.2 ppg, while veterans Matt Spadafora and Justin Fry chip in with about 8 points each.

After a win over Big 12 opponent Nebraska, the Retrievers have dropped two straight, including their America East season opener to Stony Brook at home a week ago.

Last season, the teams split with the Black Bears posting their best win of the season, 77-74, at UMBC, the Retrievers' only home loss of the season. UMBC retaliated with a win in Orono, 85-68.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

AE Roundup

Thursday, Jan. 8
Binghamton 91, Vermont 83 OT
America East's leading scorer, D.J. Rivera, put up 29 points and 12 rebounds in front of an Events Center crowd of 3,404, leading the host Bearcats to its third straight win to open the conference season. Binghamton (10-4, 3-0 America East) outscored Vermont 16-8 in the overtime period. Maurice Joseph had 17 points for the Catamounts (9-5, 0-1).
Albany 62, Boston University 63
Tim Ambrose (19 points, 11 rebounds) made two free throws with 12 seconds left in the second half, giving Albany (9-6, 1-1) its only lead of the second half and sending the SEFCU Arena crowd of 2,237 home happy. Boston University's John Holland led all scorers with 25. The Terriers (5-8, 0-1) were playing without regulars Tyler Morris (injury), Carlos Strong (injury) and Corey Lowe (sitting out after two technicals in previous game).

UMaine 64, Stony Brook 54

The Black Bears bounced back from Saturday's America East opening loss at home with a solid win at Stony Brook. Brooklyn native Malachi Peay (pictured) came off the bench to score 10 of his 12 points in the first half, sparking UMaine to a commanding lead in front of 907 at Pritchard Gymnasium. Peay, a 6-6 forward who is coming off a broken jaw suffered earlier this season against Quinnipiac, was 5 of 8 from the floor, had four rebounds and two steals in 21 minutes.

The Black Bears (6-9, 1-1 America East) led by as many as 19 points and had four players in double figures. Junior Bernal had 12 points, six assists and four rebounds. Mark Socoby chipped in with 11 points, five assists and four rebounds. Socoby hit several key free throws in the final minutes after Stony Brook (8-7, 1-2) had whittled the lead to six.

Gerald McLemore was the fourth Black Bear in double figures. He had 10 points, six rebounds and three steals.

For the game, the Black Bears shot 48 percent from the floor and committed just nine turnovers. The Seawolves, led by Muhammed El-Amin's game-high 22 points, shot 33 percent overall and had 16 turnovers.

UMaine continues its three-game road swing with a 7 p.m. tilt Saturday at defending league champion Maryland-Baltimore County.

AE Roundup

Wednesday, Jan. 7
Tyrece Gibbs scored 21 points to lead host New Hamsphire to a 55-47 win over Hartford in front of 412 at Lundholm Gym. Dane DiLiegro had four points and a 17 rebounds for UNH (5-7, 1-0 America East). Michael Turner had 16 points and Jaret von Rosenberg 15 for Hartford (5-10, 1-1). Both teams shot 33 percent from the floor.
Turner hit a 3-pointer with 5:12 left in the game to pull Hartford within 43-41, but Gibbs answered with three-pointer 32 seconds later for the Wildcats. The Hawks never got closer than six points the rest of the way.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

UMaine (5-9,0-1) at Stony Brook (8-6, 1-1)

The Black Bears and Seawolves enter this Thursday night America East tilt fresh off losses to Binghamton. Stony Brook traveled upstate and absorbed a 67-60 loss Monday in Vestal. The Bearcats had polished off the Black Bears in Orono Saturday.

The game is a matchup of teams picked eighth (UMaine) and ninth (Stony Brook) in a pre-season poll of AE coaches. It's also a rematch of last year's play-in game at the conference tournament, won by Stony Brook in overtime.

Thus far, the Seawolves appear intent on proving the coaches wrong, having posted a school-best mark of 7-5 in non-conference games and then opening league play with a stunning win at defending champion Maryland-Baltimore County.

Playing a huge role in Stony's solid start are three freshmen and a junior college transfer:

Guard, Bryan Dougher, 6-1 freshman, 12.4 points per game;
Forward, Dallis Joyner, 6-7 freshman, 6.8 points, 3.1 rebounds;
Guard/Forward, Tommy Brenton, 6-5 freshman, 7.4 points, 7.9 rebounds (pictured);
Guard, Muhammed El-Amin, 6-5 junior, 13.1 points, 2.8 rebounds;

El-Amin arrived on Long Island via Lansing Community College in Lansing, Mich. Also getting significant minutes are guards Marques Cox (6-1 senior) and Chris Martin (6-1 sophomore).
The Black Bears are looking to get back in the winning column. UMaine has dropped five straight since its win over Colgate on Dec. 8.
Last year, Stony Brook defeated UMaine in three meetings: 75-59 in New York, 56-51 in Orono and 73-65 in OT at the AE tournament.

Canadian club

The Black Bears received another verbal commitment from Ontario. Mike Allison, a 6-9, 205-pound forward/center, announced his decision Saturday during a visit to Orono. He's a teammate of Murphy Burnatowski, another recent Black Bear to commit verbally, on the Canadian Junior National Team.

In the 2008 FIBA Americas U18 Championships in Formosa, Argentina, Allison started all five games as the Canadian team went 3-2. In Canada's 83-68 win over Puerto Rico in the Bronze Medal game, Allison scored 10 points, grabbed 4 rebounds and blocked four shots. The point and blocked shot totals were tournament highs for Allison. For the tourney, he averaged 5.6 points, 4.2 rebounds and 1.6 blocks.

Allison, No. 15 in the above photo, is a native of Hamilton, Ontario, and was reportedly also considering Monmouth, Sacred Heart and Montana State.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Complete 180

Five or six years ago when John Giannini first had the Black Bears play a couple games at The Pit at Memorial Gym, we attended the games and weren't convinced at all that any games should ever be conducted there barring a complete renovation.

The floor looked to be substandard, most of the views are obstructed and it just wasn't much fun to watch a college basketball game in there.

But as the poor shooting and overall performances at Alfond Arena continue to mount, we've done a complete switcheroo. If America East will allow it (and we're not so sure they'd get the OK to try and play a complete season in The Pit), UMaine should look into the possibility of moving its games there. And nostalgia has nothing to do with it. The Pit as it is now, isn't what UMaine basketball needs. But it would be better than what we see now, which is lifeless performances in front of lifeless small crowds at Alfond.

Slap a little paint around to brighten the place up. Put up some newer, better looking wall pads, put in a better floor and move into the place. At least they will be playing on hoops that they actually get practice time on.

As it is now, opposing teams practically get as much practice time at Alfond as the home team. We're not blaming the venue for the Black Bears' woes of recent seasons, but moving the games to The Pit would at least give them some type of advantage. Namely, familiarity.

Maybe the renovation is going to happen, maybe it won't. But the moment is here for a decision to be made. Alfond Arena hasn't proven to be much of a home for UMaine basketball at this point in time.

More like the Bates Motel.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Alfond icicles

Since the 2005-06 season, the Black Bears are a frigid 11-22 overall at the frozen pond named Alfond. In America East play, UMaine is 8-16 in the same span.

Home record since 2005-06: (Division 1 games only):

2008-09: 1-4 overall, 0-1 America East
2007-08: 2-9, 0-8
2006-07: 3-6, 4-4
2005-06: 5-4, 4-4*

Total home record: 11-23, 8-17

Suggestion: Put a new floor in The Pit and start playing the games there as soon as possible. No reason to wait for the renovation. If and when the renovation happens, go back to the ice box for a season.

*Includes a 58-55 loss to BU at Memorial Gym.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Binghamton 70, UMaine 62

Opponents don't seem to mind the cold confines of Alfond Arena, but it appears UMaine would rather play in Siberia.

Black Bears lose the conference opener, shooting 17 of 32 from the foul line and 37 percent from the floor in the loss to Binghamton. The loss is the Black Bears' fifth straight and extends an America East home losing streak to nine games.

The Bearcats (8-4, 1-0 America East) shot 51 percent from the floor and 48 percent (10-21) from behind the arc. D.J. Rivera, the America East's leading scorer, had a game-high 24 points.

The Black Bears (5-9, 0-1) go on the road for two games next week against Stony Brook and UMBC.

Canadian verbals

The Black Bears have apparently secured a verbal commitment from Murphy Burnatowski, a 6-6 wing player from Waterloo, Ontario. Burnatowski would be the second Canadian to play for the Black Bears in recent years, following David Dubois. His mother is a Millinocket native.
Burnatowski is No. 8 in the front row of a team photo with his Canadian U17 team.
In July, he played with the Canadian Junior National team in the FIBA Americas Junior World Championships qualifying tournament in Formosa, Argentina. In limited action, Burnatowski helped the Canadian Junior Nationals to a 3-2 record. Burnatowski scored five points in a loss to Argentina and had five rebounds in a win over Uruguay. The team also posted victories over Mexico and Puerto Rico. The other loss was to the United States.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Binghamton (7-4) vs. Black Bears (5-8)

Riding a three-game winning streak and having posted the best non-conference record in its short Divison 1 history, Binghamton visits Alfond Arena Saturday at 1 p.m. for a mutual America East opener with the Black Bears. It would appear to be a matchup of two teams going in opposite directions.

The Black Bears have lost four straight and come into the game struggling both offensively and defensively. Both teams played Quinnipiac and Tulane during the pre-conference slate. UMaine lost to Quinnipiac at home. The Black Bears played Tulane in a tournament in Mobile, Ala. The Bears stretched a halftime lead to double digits five minutes into the second half against the Green Wave before fading badly in a 66-56 defeat.

Binghamton won both on the road, drilling Quinnipiac by 16 and edging Tulane, 74-73, in New Orleans.

Under second-year coach Kevin Broadus and his predecessor Al Walker, Binghamton has an established tradition of playing physical, hard-nosed basketball. The Black Bears will have their hands full with the Bearcats.

Bearcats forward D.J. Rivera, a junior, leads America East in scoring at 21.2. Rivera is a 6-4 transfer from St. Joseph's.

Other Bearcats leaders: Dwayne Jackson, 11.6 ppg, Reggie Fuller, 10.3 ppg; Fuller, 7.4 rpg, Rivera 7.1 rpg; Emanuel Mayben, 4.5 apg.

Notes: Binghamton won twice last year, 69-58 at Maine and 80-55 in Vestal, N.Y. ... Binghamton has led America East in attendance five straight years. ... Black Bears are in search of their first league victory at home since defeating Stony Brook 63-61 on Feb. 25, 2007. Against D1 opponents the past two seasons, UMaine is 3-13 at Alfond. ... The victories you ask? St. Francis (N.Y.) and New Jersey Tech last year and Colgate this season.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Sober up II

Of the Black Bears' top six in scoring average, only one, Troy Barnies, is shooting above 40 percent from the floor.

Sober up

As if the 56-43 shellacking, adminstered by Canisius wasn't enough, a look at the Golden Griffins recent schedule reveals a sobering result for Black Bears fans. America East brother Albany hosted Canisius Dec. 13 and clocked the Griffs, 74-46, posting a whopping 56-31 advantage on the boards.

Seventeen days later, in Orono, Canisius outrebounded the Bears by 13, including a 25 rebound effort by Chris Gadley. Gadley's total is the best rebounding performance in Division 1 to date. He had 7 (his average) against Albany.

Now, comparative scores are not always accurate when assessing how teams stack up on the court, but it is fair to look at them and wonder 'what gives?'

America East play begins Saturday. Are the Black Bears ready for the increased intensity that marks conference play?