Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Black Bears 65, Columbia 59

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

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

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

Top 10 Black Bears of the Decade

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

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

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Top 10 Black Bears of the Decade

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

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

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

Monday, December 28, 2009

Top 10 Black Bears of the Decade

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

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

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

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Top 10 Black Bears of the 2000s

10.) Justin Rowe
9.) Errick Greene

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

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

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Top 10 Black Bears of the 2000s

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Princeton game rescheduled

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

UConn 71, Black Bears 54

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

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

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

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

For highlights, click here.


Monday, December 21, 2009

Game 10

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

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

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Princeton game postponed

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

No makeup date has been announced.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Game 10

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

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

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

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

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

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

Princeton: 103
UMaine: 268

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Floor it

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

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Black Bears 57, Kennesaw State 51

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

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

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

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

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Game 9

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Game 8

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

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

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

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

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Syracuse 101, Black Bears 55

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

The Boz

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

Game 7

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Black Bears 76, Colgate 66

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

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

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

Five and done

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

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

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

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

Bada Bing(hamton)

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

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

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Game 6

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

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

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

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

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

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

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