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
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
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).

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
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
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

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.
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

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Black Bears 68, Hartford 63

Down 56-50 with 5:25 left in the game, the Black Bears turned up the defensive intensity a notch and went on a 12-2 run that ended a five-game losing streak.

By the time Hartford's Michael Turner (game-high 26 points) made a jumper with 26 ticks left, the Black Bears had gone up by four. After Turner's hoop, the Hawks started sending UMaine to the foul line. Gerald McLemore (photo) went 4 for 4 from the line and as a team, UMaine was 8 for 8 from the line in the final 1:30 to seal the win.

Hartford, with its ninth straight loss, fell to 6-20, 2-10 America East. The Black Bears (9-16, 4-8) move to within a half game of sixth-place New Hampshire, UMaine's next opponent.

The Black Bears travel to Durham Feb. 19 to start a three-game road trip. New Hampshire plays at Albany Sunday. The game between the Black Bears and UNH will likely be a key for determining Hartford's opponent in the conference tourney play-in game.

Against Hartford, Mark Socoby broke out of a three-point shooting slump by going 4 for 8 from distance and led the way with 15 points. Sean McNally had 14 points and eight rebounds. Malachi Peay (12 points, four rebounds) and McLemore (10 points) were also in double figures.

Andrew Rogers chipped in with seven points that included a clutch jumper during the deciding run and a couple free throws down the stretch. Junior Bernal had six assists and Troy Barnies kicked in eight points and two rebounds.

Hartford, which had gone 12 for 28 from deep in the teams' first meeting, made just 6 of 26 (23 percent) this time. Amazingly, the Hawks lost a game in which they shot 19 for 26 on two-point field goals.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Hartford (6-19, 2-9) at UMaine (8-16, 3-8)

Wednesday, Feb. 11, 7:30 p.m.
Something's got to give in this one.
Hartford has lost eight straight games since defeating the Black Bears 76-71 in early January. UMaine has dropped five straight.

The Hawks are 1-13 away from home this season, 0-6 in America East roadies. The Black Bears are 3-7 vs. D1 opponents at Alfond Arena this season, 2-4 in America East home games and losers of three straight on the home floor.

Hartford dug itself out of a 15-point halftime hole Monday, scored 46 points in the second half at Vermont and pulled within three points late before falling 71-63. The Black Bears have lost three games during the America East schedule in which it held double-digit leads.

A victory and the Black Bears would retain a flicker of hope for avoiding the play-in game of the conference tourney. A loss and it's a near certainty these two teams would meet again on March 6 in Albany for the right to play the No. 1 seed.

Probable starters
G - Jaret von Rosenberg, 6-2, Sr. ... 13.1 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 3.8 apg
G - Andres Torres, 5-10, Soph. ... pesky point guard, 5.5 ppg
F - Morgan Sabia, 6-8, Soph. ... 10.9 ppg, likes to launch from deep
F - Michael Turner, 6-5, Sr. ... 11 ppg, 38 percent on 3s
C - Genesis Maciel, 6-9, Fr. ... California native, 6.2 ppg
Hawk notes
Club is No. 2 in America East with 196 three-point attempts, 28 more than No. 3 ... Hawks make 8.2 bombs per game and scorched the Black Bears with 12 in the first meeting ... Hawks dead last in rebounding margin (-7) in AE ... Hawks lost all-league guard Joe Zeglinski during non-conference part of schedule.
G - Mark Socoby, 6-6, Jr. ... needs to get to the hoop/play strong
G - Junior Bernal, 6-5, Jr. ... is athletic defender headed for wing?
G - Gerald McLemore, 6-3, Fr. ... One of league's top rookies
F - Sean McNally, 6-7, Soph. ... Need him on floor, rebounding
F - Malachi Peay, 6-6, Soph. ... Versatility is strength
Black Bear notes
Look for Troy Barnies to continue his solid play as Bears should win board battle ... Freshman guard Andrew Rogers had eight assists in UMBC loss ... Kaimondre Owes has provided spark off the bench ... UM goes on the road for three after this one.

Scripps writing

With three games left in the regular season, the Scripps Ranch (San Diego) High School team is 12-10. UMaine recruit Jacob McLemore, a 6-2 guard, is averaging 11.9 points and 1.8 assists heading into tonight's game vs. La Jolla (9-13).

Monday, February 9, 2009

Let's play Jeopardy

The difference between eighth place and fourth place in the America East Conference men's basketball race.

... What is home losses to Stony Brook and UMBC?

Burnatowski, Allison lead NEDA

Canada's National Elite Development Academy junior team salvaged its final game of the National Prep School Invitational Saturday with a 47-43 over St. Thomas More of Connecticut.

Black Bear recruits Murphy Burnatowski and Mike Allison contributed eight points and four rebounds each.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

National Prep Tourney

UMaine recruit Murphy Burnatowski (Waterloo, Ont.) scored 13 points Friday in a National Prep Invitational game at the University of Rhode Island. Canada's National Elite Development Academy junior team lost games Thursday (52-49 to Maine Central Institute) and Friday (53-44 to Nia Prep of New Jersey). NEDA was scheduled to play St. Thomas More (Conn.) on Saturday.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

UMBC 73, Black Bears 68 OT

Barring a miraculous finish to the regular season, the Black Bears have nearly cemented a second consecutive appearance in the play-in game of the conference tournament. Saturday, Maryland-Baltimore County visited Alfond Arena and left with an overtime triumph.

UMaine (8-16, 3-8 America East) is now alone in eighth place, one half game in front of Hartford, which visits Orono Wednesday. UMBC (10-13, 4-7) moves to seventh.

Gerald McLemore scored a career high 25 points, but the Black Bears shot only 39 percent from the field. UMaine had a chance to win the game on the final possession of regulation, but the offensive set bogged down and resulted in a McLemore fadeaway with a defender in his face.

In reserve roles, Kaimondre Owes bagged 15 points, Troy Barnies had six points and a game-high 11 rebounds and Andrew Rogers had eight assists.

UMaine hoisted 30 three-pointers, but made only eight (27 percent). Mark Socoby's shooting woes continued as he went 1 for 9 from deep. In the past two games, Socoby has gone 4 for 22 overall and 1 for 17 from behind the line.

Darryl Proctor, America East's second-leading scorer, punctured the Black Bears for 26 points with his patented lean-back jumper.

The Black Bears woes at Alfond Arena are reaching epic proportions. UMaine is now 2-4 in America East home games this season, 2-12 the past two.

Friday, February 6, 2009

UMBC (9-13, 3-7) at UMaine (8-15, 3-7)

Saturday, Feb. 7, 7 p.m.

With only six games left in the conference season, the jostling for conference tournament seeding has begun in earnest. The winner moves to seventh place in the league standings and out of a play-in game slot. UMaine absorbed a body blow with the loss to Stony Brook Tuesday. A good counter-punch would be closing out the homestand with a pair of wins, beginning with the Retrievers.

UMBC, the defending league champ, comes into Alfond Arena off an 82-65 loss to Boston U. In that game, the Retrievers trailed by four points with four minutes remaining when freshman guard Chauncey Gilliam (10 points, 4 rebounds a game) was ejected. There was no foul on the play, but referees went to the scorer's table, watched a replay, and decided Gilliam had committed a flagrant foul on BU's Matt Wolff. UMBC never recovered.

We've seen no announcement on the status of Gilliam so presumably he'll be able to play Saturday against the Black Bears.

Probable starting lineups:

F - Darryl Proctor, 6-4, Sr. ... only AE player in double digits every game
F - Justin Fry, 6-9, Jr. ... 8 points, 4.5 rebounds/game
G - Chauncey Gilliam, 6-5, Fr. ... Last week's Rookie of the Week
G/F - Matt Spadafora, 6-5, Jr. ... 8.8 ppg, 3.6 rpg
G - Jay Greene, 5-8, Sr. ... 7 assists/game leads league
Retriever notes
Proctor (19.7 ppg, 8.6 rpg) and Greene (11.7 ppg) are 1-2 in America East, averaging 39 minutes per game ... Greene (36 percent) and Spadafora are only Retrievers with more than 21 three-point attempts ... Fairfield transfer Rich Flemming, a 6-7 sophomore forward, has been out with a knee injury but is expected back soon.

G - Junior Bernal, 6-5, Jr. ... need steady production
G - Mark Socoby, 6-6, Jr. ... looking to bounce back after SBU
G - Gerald McLemore, 6-3, Fr. ... No. 2 in AE with 58 threes
F - Sean McNally, 6-7, Soph. ... No. 4 rebounder at 7.3/game
F - Troy Barnies, 6-7, Soph. ... FG shooting (.507) is No. 5 in AE
Black Bears notes
Sophomore forward Malachi Peay missed the Stony Brook loss with the flu ... Black Bears must control the boards ... Superior depth would seem to be an advantage against UMBC ... Bears looking for wire-to-wire consistency.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Big 3 results

Before the game, we suggested that how effective the Black Bears offset the production of Stony Brook's Muhammad El-Amin, Tommy Brenton and Bryan Dougher would be a factor in the outcome of the game. The results?

The Black Bears lost that battle.

Brenton, Dougher and El-Amin combined for 34 points, 15 rebounds and seven assists.
Maine's top-line trio of Mark Socoby, Junior Bernal and Sean McNally teamed up for 26 points, 16 rebounds and eight assists.

Add the contributions of SBU's Demetrius Young (17 points, six rebounds) and Chris Martin (11 points, four assists) in reserve roles and UMaine had no answer for the Seawolves' effort.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Stony Brook 70, Black Bears 59

About all you need to know about this one is this: UMaine committed 11 turnovers in the first half, had 19 fewer shot attempts than Stony Brook and allowed the Seawolves to crash the boards for 12 offensive rebounds.

Somehow, somehow, despite stumbling around for 20 minutes, the Black Bears trailed by just eight points. Stony Brook, however, held off a mild UMaine rally in the second half and coasted to an important victory.

With a chance to tie the Seawolves in the league standings, the Black Bears came out flat and fell to 8-15, 3-7 America East. Stony Brook improved to 13-10, 5-5. UMaine now faces an uphill fight to avoid participating in the play-in game of the conference tournament for the second straight year.

The Black Bears have two games left on the homestand against UMBC and Hartford, both of whom currently have seven losses.

Muhammad El-Amin led Stony Brook with 22 points.

Sean McNally paced the Black Bears with 15 points and 10 rebounds. Gerald McLemore added 14 points. Kaimondre Owes and Mark Socoby had 10 each. Socoby struggled from the floor, going 1 for 10 (0 for 8 on three-pointers).

The Black Bears fall to 3-6 in Division 1 games at Alfond Arena this year.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Gilliam tossed

Maryland-Baltimore County may be without freshman guard/forward Chauncey Gilliam when the Retrievers visit UMaine Saturday. Gilliam was ejected in the second half of UMBC's 82-65 loss Monday against visiting Boston University.
Gilliam was sent to the locker room in the second half after officials determined he committed a flagrant foul. UMBC's next game is in Orono.
He is third on the Retrievers in scoring at 10 points a game and is third in America East in field goal shooting.

Stony Brook (12-10, 4-5) at UMaine (8-14, 3-6)

Tuesday, Feb. 3, 7:30 p.m.

This game has tournament seeding ramifications. A win would not only vault UMaine from seventh- to fifth-place in the standings, a series sweep would ensure owning the tie-breaker against the Seawolves. Notch a victory here and the Black Bears can begin to work themselves away from dreaded play-in territory. UMaine took the first meeting, 64-54.

The Seawolves are led by junior college transfer Muhammad El-Amin (14.9 points) and a pair of freshmen, Bryan Dougher (11.7 ppg) and Tommy Brenton (7.6 ppg, 8.9 rebounds). How well the Black Bears trio of Mark Socoby, Junior Bernal and Sean McNally match up should be telling.

Probable starters:

Stony Brook
G - Muhammad El-Amin, 6-5, Jr. ... Seventh in league scoring
G - Bryan Dougher, 6-1, Fr. ... 42 percent from three leads league
G - Marques Cox, 6-1, Sr. ... A veteran hand to start games
F - Dallis Joyner, 6-7, Fr. ... 6.5 ppg, 3.5 rpg
F - Tommy Brenton, 6-5, Fr. ... America East's leading glass man
Seawolves notes
Forward Demetrius Young, a 6-6 senior, and 6-1 sophomore guard Chris Martin are capable of stepping up and playing productive minutes. Young averages 7.6 points and 3.6 rebounds off the bench while Martin is third leading scorer at 8.1 a game. ... El-Amin and Dougher are top shooters from deep, as SBU is third in America East at 36 percent.

Black Bears
G - Mark Socoby, 6-6, Jr. ... Capable of scoring inside and out
G - Junior Bernal, 6-5, Jr. ... Slasher can wear down SBU guards
G - Gerald McLemore, 6-3, Fr. ... Tied for league lead with 54 threes
F - Sean McNally, 6-7, Soph. ... Fifth on league rebound chart
F - Malachi Peay, 6-6, Soph. ... Must help on the boards tonight

Black Bears notes
Look for UMaine's response to three straight losses in which the team held double-digit leads. ... Game is first of three straight at home for the Black Bears.