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.

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