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.