Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Nittany knockoff

Murphy Burnatowski scored 20 points and Terrance Mitchell added 17, leading the Black Bears to a 74-64 upset of Penn State Tuesday afternoon.

The victory over the Big Ten's Nittany Lions is UMaine's second of the season over a power conference school. Earlier, the Black Bears defeated UMass from the Atlantic 10.

UMaine has won four straight and has one non-conference game left on the schedule, a Dec. 30 date with Columbia at Alfond Arena.

The Black Bears open the America East season Jan. 2 with a home game against Boston University, the pre-season league favorite.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Pit pushover

Terrance Mitchell scored 22 points and Gerald McLemore 12 as the Black Bears cruised past Norfolk State 74-54 Sunday.

The game was played at The Pit.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Ambush in Amherst

UMaine shook out of its recent doldrums to knock off the Atlantic 10's UMass 68-56 Monday night.

The Black Bears, coming off two straight home losses and four overall, limited the host Minutemen to 29 percent shooting and posted a 39-33 advantage on the backboards.

UMaine's bench provided 43 points, led by Malachi Peay and Terrance Mitchell who both scored 10 points. Alasdair Fraser had nine points and Mike Allison added seven points and six rebounds.

Gerald McLemore led the Black Bears with 12 points. Troy Barnies had seven points and 10 rebounds.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Stinging loss

UMaine gave up 46 points in the second half for its second consecutive loss at home and fifth overall as Delaware State left Orono with a 75-56 victory.

The Black Bears haven't won a Division 1 game since the Nov. 12 opener at Utah Valley.

UMaine did not have a player from the starting lineup score in double figures. Raheem Singleton (11 points) and Murphy Burnatowski (10 points, 8 rebounds) led the Black Bears, who shot 37 percent from the floor.

The Hornets, whose only D1 win entering the game was against Maryland-Eastern Shore, connected on 46 percent of its shots, including 8 of 21 (38 percent) from behind the arc.

The Black Bears travel to UMass Wednesday before returning home to face Norfolk State on Dec. 12.

UMaine has five non-conference games left before the America East season begins. Two of the games are guarantee games (at UMass and Penn State) and three are at home (Norfolk State, Colgate and Columbia).

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Brown out

UMaine's early-season struggles continued Saturday with a 62-54 loss at home to Brown.

Both teams shot less than 40 percent from the floor, but the visitors from Providence connected on all 17 of their free throws while the Black Bears hit just 58 percent (7 of 12).

Murphy Burnatowski led the Black Bears with 15 points. Raheem Singleton had 11.

UMaine was once again beaten on the backboards as Brown posted a 31-29 advantage. As a team, the Black Bears are ranked 332nd in the country in rebounding.

Sean McNally, Gerald McLemore and Terrance Mitchell combined for only 10 points on 4 for 18 shooting. McLemore's early-season woes continued. In 36 minutes, the preseason all-America East pick had four points and no rebounds, assists, steals or blocks.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Clubbed in Connecticut

Host Quinnipiac pounded the Black Bears on the backboards on its way to a 75-67 victory Monday night.

The Bobcats outrebounded UMaine 40-26 overall and 17-7 on the offensive glass. Both teams shot 38 percent from the floor, but Quinnipiac attempted 13 more shots than the Black Bears.

According to the boxscore, the Black Bears played without guard Gerald McLemore.

Raheem Singleton led UMaine with 18 points. Terrance Mitchell, back from a hand injury and seeing his first action of the season, had 14 points. Alasdair Fraser had 12.

Monday, November 22, 2010

South Bend blues

UMaine played the second of three BCS opponents on its schedule Monday night, traveling to South Bend, Ind., to take on Notre Dame.

The Irish got the victory, 97-72. The Black Bears have a week off before returning to the floor at Qunnipiac on Nov. 29.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

America East ailing

The injury bug continues to plague America East contenders.

New Hampshire has lost star guard Alvin Abreu for the season. He tore an ACL in the season-opening loss to Dartmouth.

He's at least the fourth top-level America East player to sustain an early season injury. UMaine's Sean McNally and guard Terrance Mitchell started the season on the injured list. McNally returned to game action Nov. 19 against Maine-Machias. Mitchell was recently cleared to begin practicing again and is expected to return sometime in December ... maybe.

Stony Brook star forward Tommy Brenton started the run of injuries when he got hurt just before the official start of practice.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Terps sprint past UMaine

The Black Bears hung with Maryland for about 15 minutes before the Terps broke free and posted an 89-59 win at College Park, Md.

Troy Barnies had 16 points and 11 rebounds. Murphy Burnatowski had 17 points.

The Black Bears host Maine-Machias Nov. 19 before returning to D1 play at Notre Dame on Nov. 22.

Friday, November 12, 2010

OT in Orem

Raheem Singleton hit a 14-foot jumper with .8 on the clock to send the season-opener at Utah Valley into overtime. He scored the first four points in OT, leading the Black Bears to a 71-66 victory.

UMaine scored the first 10 points in the extra period and the defense held Utah Valley scoreless until there was 33 seconds left in the game. Utah Valley hit a couple late threes to close the gap.

Singleton showed a willingness to step up and take (and make) big shots in his Black Bears debut. Troy Barnies played his usual active game and UMaine played a solid game on the defensive end. Not surprisingly, the first game of the season lacked any real flow and featured lots of stops and starts. What stood out, however, was the Black Bears limiting the host Wolverines to less than 40 percent shooting from the field.

UMaine played without Sean McNally (ankle) and Terrance Mitchell (finger).

Four America East teams opened the season Friday and only the Black Bears won. Cornell downed Albany by three. UConn dispatched Stony Brook and Northeastern squeeked by Boston U., 64-62.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Picks are in

For the first time in many a year, the border-war games between UMaine and New Hampshire likely will have a direct bearing on the America East basketball race. Should be a fun winter in northern New England. Now, if UMaine can just get everybody healthy ...

Steve and I turned in our picks with the biggest disparity being where to peg our boys, the Black Bears. I have them pegged for another fourth-place finish while Steve has them moving up a couple notches to No. 2.

No surprise that Boston U. is our unanimous pick for No. 1. They've got the league's best player in John Holland and another guy, Jake O'Brien, who can score from anywhere.

Despite the injury to Tommy Brenton, I've got Stony Brook staying a solid second. The Seawolves might have the deepest roster in America East and I think that will allow them to hold the fort until Brenton returns.

New Hampshire and the Black Bears fall into the same bucket o' fish in my opinion. If some things break right (i.e., injuries, schedule, good whistles, etc.,) either of these two teams could contend for the league title.

Alvin Abreu is a stud and UNH has a solid roster. UMaine has enough experience to know the season begins in January. Big question on Black Bears' mind might be the point guard position. Andrew Rogers is back and he's joined by Raheem "Radio" Singleton. If one of those two turns into a bonafide AE point (or if they provide a solid combination) it'll improve UMaine's chances considerably.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Coach Reed

Kevin Reed, the top three-point shooter in UMaine history, has accepted the head basketball coaching position at Bangor Christian High School.

Good luck, coach.

One of my favorite Kevin Reed moments:

When my daughter was younger, she used to pick a favorite Black Bears player every year.

Some her favorite players were Huggy Dye, Justin Rowe, Eric Dobson, Joe Campbell and Kevin Reed. One year, we found her a baby blue basketball outfit with Kevin Reed's number on it. We affixed the letters K. REED and she used to wear it all the time.

At one game, she was walking somewhere near the bench and I could see from a distance that one of Reed's friends in the stands yelled something to him. Reed turns around and broke into a smile when he saw her.

She's older now, but she still has her favorite ... Troy.

M*A*S*H

The Black Bears apparently will enter the season with a couple players on the injured list. Seniors Sean McNally (foot/ankle) and Terrance Mitchell (finger) have sustained injuries.

Mitchell recently had surgery on his hand is said be out at least six weeks. McNally's appears to be less severe. McNally tweeted that he stepped on a Cape Breton player's foot during the exhibition game. He said he was outfitted with a flexible walking cast.

Not the way you want to start the season, but it'll give some players an opportunity to step in and show what they can do. Those two guys represent a lot of minutes.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Exhibition place

The Black Bears downed Cape Breton Saturday in an exhibition game at Alfond Arena.

Steve attended the game and called in a report:

* Sean McNally appeared to have trimmed down a bit and was moving very well on the inside until an apparent ankle injury knocked him out of the exhibition early in the second half. According to published reports, the injury is not serious. McNally was on the bench for the duration of the contest.

Hopefully, the injury won't become a lingering issue.

* Raheem Singleton (above) doesn't mind physical play; an important characteristic for guards in America East. Once conference play begins, guards who can't withstand constant hand-checks, clutching and grabbing get pushed around and eventually out.
* UMaine dominated the rebounding (to be expected), but also committed a ton of turnovers (not necessarily expected).

* Troy Barnies brought his usual energy and effort.

* Murphy Burnatowski came off the bench and looked good. The starters were Gerald McLemore, Singleton, McNally, Barnies and Malachi Peay.

* Terrance Mitchell and Travon Wilcher were held out of the game.

Next stop Utah Valley State on Nov. 12.


Friday, October 22, 2010

First look

Fans will get their first look at the 2010-11 Black Bears Sunday at the annual Blue-White game. It's safe to say that expectations for a UMaine men's hoop team haven't been this hopeful for at least five or six years.

The Black Bears have a strong nucleus returning from a 19-11 squad that surprised last year and finished third in America East. Based on that performance, many publications and league coaches have picked UMaine to finish high up in the standings again.

The common refrain heard around the team is "if things break right and fall into place" maybe this club could do the unthinkable and win the league title and the program's first-ever NCAA berth.

To which we say, "whoaaaaaa, Nellie." There's a lot of turf to cover before the club gets to that point. One only has to look across the parking lot to the football field to find an example of a team talking bravely (and listening to glowing reports) before the season only to have it unravel in a matter of weeks.

Remember, this Black Bears basketball team hasn't won a postseason game since assistant coach Chris Markwood was lacing them up. This Black Bears team was the only higher seeded team to lose its America East quarterfinal game last year.

Sure, we all love to read the glittering reports about the Black Bears and once again enter a season with a little swagger. But remember, it's all just so much talk unless it is backed up.

Sunday we'll be re-introduced to the Black Bears. Three weeks from Sunday, another college hoops journey begins.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Longing for Pit renovation

UMaine announced today that it has received a $5.5 million challenge grant from the Harold Alfond Foundation for renovations at Alfond Arena and the planned renovation of Memorial Gym, aka, The Pit.

Of the $5.5 million, $2 million is a challenge grant for the $14 million renovation of Memorial Gym and Field House. A written release did not specify how much has been raised to date for the project.

Plans include a renovated facility to serve as home to the men's and women's basketball teams, replacement of the indoor track, renovated athletics department office space and other modifications, said the university.

The rest of the grant goes to renovations planned for the arena, which will continue to serve as home of the hoops teams for the foreseeable future.

Renovation work will begin at Alfond Arena later this fall. No time frame for work on The Pit was announced.

Now, if I could just win the Powerball ... UMaine would, in short order, be able to hold another press conference announcing a new home for UMaine hoops.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Preseason All-America East

UMaine junior guard Gerald McLemore has been chosen to the America East preseason all-conference team.

He's joined by Boston University forward Jake O'Brien, Vermont forward Evan Fjeld, Binghamton guard Greer Wright and Boston University guard John Holland.

Wright and Holland were unanimous selections.

Coaches poll

In the preseason poll of America East coaches, the Black Bears have been picked to finish third. UMaine received one first place vote.

Boston University, with six first-place votes, was picked to win the title. Stony Brook had the other two first-place votes and was selected for second.

The poll:

1. Boston U.
2. Stony Brook
3. Black Bears
4. New Hampshire
5. Vermont
6. Hartford
7. Binghamton
8. Albany
9. Maryland-Baltimore County

America East releases schedule

America East has finally released the league schedule. Some
initial observations about the Black Bears slate:

* A chance for a quick start with first two at home and
the first two roadies at UMBC and Albany. Alfond hasn't
been a stellar home venue, but this schedule gives
UMaine a chance to get a quick start.

* Nice non-league schedule with five, count'em,
five D1 home games against non-conference competition.
No reason for fans not to hop on this bandwagon
well before January rolls around.

* Money games. An interesting blend of
guarantee games: ACC (Maryland),
Big East (Notre Dame), Atlantic 10 (UMass)
and Big Ten (Penn State).

* Big game right off the bat. Black Bears
open AE season at home against conference contender
Boston University. The Terriers feature the
frontrunner for the league's Player of the Year
in John Holland. An opportunity to
open the league season with some sizzle.

* End of regular season. It seems every year, the
Black Bears are forced to travel (Binghamton and
Vermont come to mind) the weekend preceding the AE tourney.
In other words, always a short turnaround on the bus.
This year, that trend is stopped. UMaine will end
the regular season with its shortest trip (UNH)
and a home game (Albany). Sweet.


*Nov. 12: at Utah Valley
Nov. 14: at Maryland
Nov. 19: MAINE-MACHIAS
Nov. 22: at Notre Dame
Nov. 29: at Quinnipiac
Dec. 4: BROWN
Dec. 6: DELAWARE STATE
Dec. 8: at Massachusetts
Dec. 12: NORFOLK STATE
Dec. 19: COLGATE
Dec. 21: at Penn State
Dec. 30: COLUMBIA
Jan. 2: BOSTON*
Jan. 6: HARTFORD*
Jan. 9: at UMBC*
Jan. 11: at Albany*
Jan. 15: BINGHAMTON*
Jan. 18: at Vermont*
Jan. 22: STONY BROOK*
Jan. 25: NEW HAMPSHIRE*
Jan. 29: at Binghamton*
Feb. 2: at Boston*
Feb. 6: UMBC*
Feb. 10: at Hartford*
Feb. 12: at Stony Brook*
Feb. 16: VERMONT*
Feb. 19: at Bracket Buster
Feb. 24: at New Hampshire*
Feb. 27: ALBANY*

Friday, October 1, 2010

Black Bears in Bracket Busters

The cast of ESPN's Bracket Busters just keeps getting bigger and bigger. This season, some 114 teams will participate in ESPN's annual nod to the low- and mid-major programs.

While the only games that receive the ESPN hype are those chosen for programming, it's still a nice marketing tool for all the programs that participate. Match-ups will be announced later.

UMaine has been selected as a road team for the event. Five other schools in America East will also participate: Boston University, Stony Brook, New Hampshire and Vermont. Boston U. and Stony Brook will have home games.

Speaking of Stony Brook, it was recently reported that stud forward Tommy Brenton will be out for an extended period with a dislocated knee. The Seawolves won the regular season title last year and Brenton, a junior, is one of America East's top rebounders.

Stony Brook coach Steve Pikiel has stocked his roster with solid players and the Seawolves will be good without Brenton. But make no mistake, Brenton will be missed. He's got a unique talent for being around the ball. He's an instigator.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

TV time

UMaine's game at Stony Brook on Saturday, Feb. 12, will be televised by ESPNU at 11 a.m.

The Black Bears and Seawolves are expected to contend for the regular season America East title.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Frasier leads Scots

UMaine recruit Alasdair Fraser led the Scotland U18 team to a win over Portugal Monday. Fraser had 29 points, 11 rebounds and four assists. Scotland finished 2-2 in pool play, but did not advance to the championship bracket of the Division B FIBA European Championships.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Bears get early commit

Forest Hills (N.Y.), Notre Dame Prep (Mass.) and current Monroe Junior College player Andre Armstrong, according to the New York Post, has given a verbal commitment to the University of Maine.

He's a 6-2 guard that UMaine has been following for quite some time. Armstrong was said to be considering New Hampshire and St. Francis (N.Y.) as well.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Mono for Murph

Tough break for Black Bears sophomore Murphy Burnatowski. After he had played his way onto the Canadian National team and was preparing for a two-week trip to Europe, he was diagnosed with mononucleosis and was forced to miss the trip.

See story.

Check out the great comments on Murphy from Canada coach Leo Rautins.

Noteworthy: Leo Rautins, coach of the Canadian National team, is a former Syracuse star and father of Andy Rautins, a more recent Syracuse star. The elder Rautins began his collegiate career at the University of Minnesota before transferring to Syracuse. As a freshman at Minnesota, Rautins and the Gophers played an intra-squad game at my high school. He was part of a recruiting class at Minnesota many still believe to be among the best in school history.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Terrance and Bubba

Golfer Bubba Watson, winner of his first PGA Tour title at the Traveler's Championship in Cromwell, Conn., yesterday, was a junior college All-American at Faulkner State Junior College (Ala.) -- same school as former Black Bear Fred Meeks and current Black Bear Terrance Mitchell.

Raheem highlights

Check out the highlight video created on new Black Bear Raheem Singleton. Hang in there for the nice touch at the end.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

AE comings and goings

The revolving door at America East has been spinning lately as Hartford coach Dan Leibovitz resigned and a couple players, Russell Graham (UNH) and Chauncey Gilliam (UMBC) announced they would transfer.

UMaine players Ryan Martin and Jerrell Boswell have also been reported to be transferring. Martin, according to a report, will seek a transfer to a Divison II or III school in search of playing time. Boswell came to the Black Bears via the JUCO route, but never saw much playing time last year.

Gilliam just completed his sophomore season at UMBC and was named third team All-America East.

There are reports circulating that former Hartford and Boston College assistant coach John Gallagher will be named to replace Leibovitz as the new Hartford boss.

NJCAA honors for Singleton

Black Bears recruit Raheem Singleton (Monroe Community College, Rochester, N.Y.) was selected third-team All-American for NJCAA Division II.

NJCAA Division II All-American Team

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Singleton about to sign

Raheem Singleton, a 6-foot point guard from Boston, has reportedly made a verbal commitment to attend UMaine. Singleton recently completed his sophomore year at Monroe Community College in Rochester, N.Y.

Singleton was a Boston Globe All-Scholastics player at Madison Park High School in 2007.

He led Monroe to a 29-4 record and an appearance in the National Junior College tournament in Danville, Ill. (home of Huggy Dye, by the way).

Singleton's stats:

15.0 points per game (led four double-digit scorers)
3.8 rebounds
5.6 assists
2.5 assist to turnover ratio (180 assists/72 turnovers)
54 percent on all field goals
41 percent on three-pointers (31 of 76)
69 percent on free throws
Note: Former Black Bear Rashard Turner played one season at Monroe Junior College. ... Singleton's nickname is "Radio" after a character in the Spike Lee movie, "Do the Right Thing."

Monday, March 15, 2010

Buffalo news

Some recruiting sites list Mike Buffalo, a 6-3 guard at South Kent School in Connecticut, as receiving some level of interest from UMaine. Buffalo is a New York native.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Was there ever any doubt?

It's a shame that Marqus Blakely won't have his name listed next to Reggie Lewis and Taylor Coppenrath as the only three-time winners of the Player of the Year in America East.

Any doubt about who has been the best and most dominant player in the league this year and for the past three were erased emphatically last weekend in Hartford and then today in Vermont's championship game victory.

One simple question for America East coaches: If you could draft any player in the league to build a team around, who would you pick? There's not one who wouldn't take Blakely, I guarantee it.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Award to Woodward

CollegeInsider.com, a website devoted to mid-major basketball, has named Black Bears coach Ted Woodward its America East Coach of the Year.

The Black Bears finished third in America East after being picked to finish eighth in the preseason coaches poll. UMaine finished the season at 19-11 overall and 11-5 in the league.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Point guard picks Canisius

The Buffalo News reported that Jahenns Manigat has given a verbal commitment to attend Canisius College. The BN said the 6-2 guard visited the Buffalo campus last week. Manigat was also considering UMaine.

He played for the same Regional Elite Development Academy team in Canada as Black Bears Mike Allison and Murphy Burnatowski.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

UNH 68, Black Bears 57


A season of great strides for the UMaine basketball program came to a crashing halt Saturday night in the quarterfinals of the America East Tournament.

No. 6-seeded New Hampshire defended better, rebounded better, executed its offense better and pulled away in the second half for the upset of the No. 3 Black Bears.

UNH put the clamps on Gerald McLemore (7 points) throughout the game and UMaine struggled to find a rhythm on offense. At the other end, UNH's Brian Benson had career highs in points (13) and rebounds (9). He hit two 3-pointers in the game, doubling his season total. The Wildcats hit the glass hard, pulling down 14 offensive rebounds, and led by as much as 18 points in the second half.
Those are the kinds of things that win tournament games.

UMaine's tournament losing streak is now six, including five straight one-and-dones. The last UMaine win and semifinal appearance was in 2005 when the Black Bears beat Boston U.

Sean McNally had a double-double with 16 points and 12 rebounds. Terrance Mitchell added 11 points. Junior Bernal, in his final appearance in a Maine uniform, had six points, six rebounds, three assists and three steals.

The Black Bears who beat UNH by 14 and 19 during the regular season, finish 19-11.

Black Bears (19-10) vs. UNH (12-16)

Saturday, 8:15 p.m.
Chase Arena, Hartford, Conn.

The intensity will be ratched up a few notches today as the men's tournament gets underway. Unlike the women's field, which for all intents appears to be a two-team party (Hartford and Vermont), the men's field carries a little different aura.

Stony Brook opens with eighth-seeded Albany and needed a last-second Muhammad El-Amin shot to win at Albany. BU has to play Hartford on the Hawks' home floor. Jake O'Brien hit a three in the final seconds to beat Hartford in the teams' last meeting.

Vermont should belt UMBC. UMaine and New Hampshire should be a good one. New Hampshire is a solid team that feeds off of guard Alvin Abreu.

Black Bears left the hotel this morning about 9:45 a.m. for a brief shootaround at Chase Arena. They'll come back to the hotel and make final preparations for tonight's "Late Show."

Meanwhile, we are getting ready. This is the best time of the year and nothing compares to a mid-major conference tourney where everyone is fighting for that one and only NCAA bid.

UMaine is preparing for New Hampshire, a club it has defeated twice this season. The Wildcats will be a dangerous team and unless the Black Bears come out and lock them down on defense, UNH has enough scoring ability to hang with UMaine.

New Hampshire is coming off a win over regular season champ Stony Brook. Black Bears stumbled at BU, having secured the No. 3 seed.

One of the keys for UMaine is keeping Alvin Abreu from getting into a rhythm. Dane DiLiegro can be a physical force for UNH up front, but UMaine has tempered his energy and production in both regular-season contests. This must continue.

The Black Bears are better in the frontcourt and have a deeper roster overall. A wildcard for UNH could be freshman Ferq Myrick. He's a real talent who exploded for 21 points in 19 minutes against Stony Brook.

Black Bears must stay solid defensively and churn out productive offensive sets.

The last time UMaine and UNH met in the tournament was in 2002. UMaine was seeded No. 5 and UNH was No. 4. The Black Bears prevailed in a memorable 54-48 slugfest, then went on to upset No. 1 Vermont in a equally memorable overtime game.

The Vermont game provided a bit of foreshadowing. As Vermont fans bemoaned the fact T.J. Sorrentine was chucking up bombs from all over the place, the Black Bears won. A couple years later, Sorrentine was the poster boy for the NCAA tournament as his 30-footer to launch Vermont past Syracuse became a fixture on tournament highlight reels.

True blue Black Bears fans

Sue, Al, Steve, Doria and Dan: Another America East basketball tournament.

Table for two

If Thursday night and Friday's women's quarterfinals sessions are any indication, tonight's UMaine/New Hampshire matchup should have an intimate setting.

UMaine and New Hampshire, it appears, are the only schools in the entire men's and women's field that didn't send a band and/or cheerleaders and/or dance team. Many of the schools have all three in attendance.

In addition, the Black Bears and New Hampshire play the final game of the evening, long after many of the neutral fans will have left for the day.

Sidenote
Very impressed with Hartford's effort and atmosphere with many different vendors and activities for fans young and old.

Friday, March 5, 2010

G-Mac is first-team All-America East

Gerald McLemore earned first team All-America East honors. The postseason awards were handed out at a Friday afternoon banquet at the University of Hartford, where the men's and women's conference tournament is taking place. McLemore is the first Black Bear to make first team all-conference since Rickey White in 2003.

Joining McLemore on the first team are Muhammad El-Amin (Stony Brook), Marqus Blakely (Vermont), John Holland (Boston U.) and Greer Wright (Binghamton).

In a shocker, El-Amin was selected by league coaches as America East Player of the Year. Vermont's Marqus Blakely had won two straight and was a prohibitive favorite to win a third.

UMaine's Sean McNally was named third team all-conference. Junior Bernal was picked for the all-defense team and Murphy Burnatowski made the all-rookie team.

Binghamton's Dylan Talley beat out Burnatowski for the Rookie of the Year Award.

Stony Brook's Steve Pikiell was named Coach of the Year after leading Stony Brook to its first regular season title.

Second Team All-Conference
Corey Lowe (Boston U.), Alvin Abreu (New Hampshire), Tommy Brenton (Stony Brook), Bryan Dougher (Stony Brook) and Joe Zeglinski (Hartford).

Third Team All-Conference
Sean McNally (Maine), Jake O'Brien (Boston U.), Chauncey Gilliam (UMBC), Evan Fjeld (Vermont) and Maurice Joseph (Vermont).

Opinion
There's some inconsistency here. League coaches awarded El-Amin for being the most outstanding player on the team that won the regular season championship. That's fine, but Blakely impacts every game in every way possible. On top of that, he's at the top of the league charts in just about every statistical category imaginable. El-Amin is a scorer and that's about it. Don't get me wrong, he's a fine player and I have no problem if the emphasis is going to be on players who lead their teams to wins.

But that's where the inconsistency comes in. How then is Dylan Talley the Rookie of the Year? Sure, he led all rookies in scoring and he rebounds well as a guard. But Murphy Burnatowski has been productive on both ends of the floor and has helped his team to a third-place finish and 19 wins. Talley winning the award is not a surprise, but what worked for El-Amin evidently didn't come into play for Burnatowski.

You could also make a strong case for Stony Brook's Tommy Brenton or Bryan Dougher as first-team worthy. Brenton's the best rebounder in the league and is a ball-hawk on defense. Dougher is one of the top 3-point shooters in the league and, as a guard, only turned the ball over 19 times, yes, that's 19 times during the whole America East schedule. And they led Stony Brook to its first regular season title.

But when it came time for first-team honors, there's Binghamton's Greer Wright, who had a fine statistics, but his team was 13-18 and 8-8 for fifth-place in the league. It worked for El-Amin but not Brenton and Dougher. Seems like an awful lot of love for an sub-.500 team.

And then, on the third team is Maryland-Baltimore County's Chauncey Gilliam, the leading scorer on a 4-25 team.

You mean to tell me an all-around performer like Maine's Junior Bernal wouldn't have been a better fit there?

M & M hoopsters

We met the parents of Vermont women's basketball star May Kotsopoulos this morning and had a nice conversation. The Catamounts men and women are staying in the same hotel as the Black Bears and UMaine fans.

Kotsopoulos is from the same hometown, Waterloo, Ontario, as UMaine men's freshman forward Murphy Burnatowski. They went to different high schools, but the Kotsopoulos's are familiar with Burnatowski and were interested in hearing how he is doing.

As the Vermont women's team came down to the lobby and got ready to board their bus over to the arena, Kotsopoulos's parents called their daughter over and introduced her to us.

The Black Bears men are expected to arrive in Hartford this afternoon after a morning practice in Orono. The America East postseason awards announcements will be made this afternoon.

First tourney upset

Kennesaw State, a team the Black Bears defeated early this season, pulled the initial upset of the conference tournament season Wednesday, toppling top-seed Lipscomb in the Atlantic Sun quarterfinals.

Eighth-seeded Kennesaw hit 11 three-pointers in the game. While the seeding says it was an upset, Kennesaw had downed Lipscomb during the regular season. In that game, Kennesaw hit an astounding 19 shots from beyond the arc.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

UMaine women ousted

Attended the America East women's play-in game tonight. A sluggish start at the beginning of both halves doomed the Black Bears in a 65-50 loss to UNH.

The women's quarterfinals take place Friday and the men's quarters are Saturday. Getting ready for three straight days of non-stop hoops.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

America East tournament picks

QUARTERFINALS

1. Stony Brook vs. 8. Albany
Last year, as the No. 7 seed, Albany took down No. 2 Vermont in overtime in a memorable performance. Can the Great Danes turn the trick again? Stony Brook is in unfamiliar waters, the top seed, the hunted. Seawolves will be fine; they've got too many bullets for Albany to withstand over 40 minutes.
Stony Brook 74, Albany 61

No. 4 Boston U. vs. No. 5 Hartford
Terriers get the host Hawks because of Bingamton's decision to skip the party. This could be dicey for BU. The Terriers have a recent history of flameouts in the tourney and Hartford has a puncher's chance with "Mighty" Joe Zeglinski, Morgan Sabia and a decent supporting cast. If Joel Barkers has a big game, it could spell trouble for BU. If BU goes cold from deep, lookout below. I don't think BU's John Holland lets it happen again.
Boston U. 67, Hartford 62

No. 2 Vermont vs. No. 7 Maryland-Baltimore County
'Cats cruise here. There's just no way for UMBC. The Retrievers have some nice young players -- Chris De La Rosa, Chauncey Gilliam and Adrian Satchell -- but Vermont has America East's supreme commander in Marqus Blakely. His frontcourt mate, Evan Fjeld, is underrated.
Vermont 79, UMBC 55

No. 3 Maine vs. No. 6 New Hampshire
Black Bears defeated Wildcats by 14 and 19 during the regular season. Don't count on that happening here. After a lapse in the regul.ar-season finale at BU, Black Bears need to sharpen their defensive teeth and put the clamps on UNH. Wildcats have speedy Alvin Abreu, banger Dane DiLiegro and talented freshman Ferq Myrick. Like Stony Brook, UMaine finds itself in unfamiliar position of being a favorite to advance. They will, barely.
Maine 67, UNH 66 (overtime)

SEMIFINALS

Stony Brook vs. Boston U.
Can't wait to see this one. Best firepower in the league will be featured. Seawolves wield Muhammad El-Amin, Chris Martin, Bryan Dougher and irrepressible Tommy Brenton. Terriers counter with Holland, Corey Lowe, Jake O'Brien and Carlos Strong. I've got a feeling, it's going to be a good, good night ... for the Terriers.
Boston U. 74, Stony Brook 69

Vermont vs. Maine
Black Bears lost a close one at home to the Catamounts way back in early January. In Burlington, Bears dozed early, fought back, then faded. This game's in Hartford and will be tight all the way. Black Bears have something to prove to their northern neighbors. Blakely has had some huge games against Black Bears. Can UMaine keep Blakely and Fjeld from dominating the paint? UMaine will host its first America East championship game.
Maine 64, Vermont 63 (overtime)

All-America East Awards

FIRST TEAM

Marqus Blakely - Vermont
6-5 - Senior - Forward
The most dominant player in the league and is a near lock to become the third player in America East history to win three straight player of the year awards. Second in points per game (17.4), second in rebounding (9.1), fourth in assists (3.7), first in steals (2.6), first in blocks (1.9) and second in field goal percentage (.541).
John Holland - Boston U.
6-5 - Junior - Forward
If not for Blakely, Holland would most likely have a couple POYs. He could do it this year. He led the league in scoring at 19.9. He shoots 47 percent from the floor and also pulls down 6.2 rebounds. He's also second in the league in steals (1.6).
Tommy Brenton - Stony Brook
6-5 - Sophomore - Forward
He's relentless on the boards, leading the league at 9.6 a game. He's second in steals and scores 7.7. He always seems to be around the ball.
Gerald McLemore - Maine
6-3 - Sophomore - Guard
He leads the country with 100 three-pointers, shoots 40 percent on the bombs despite being the top assignment for the opposition. He averages 14.9 a game and has led the Black Bears resurgence. He's also become and underrated defender.
Muhammad El-Amin - Stony Brook
6-5 - Senior - Guard
Checks in at 16.8 points a game. He's an explosive scorer who tore it up down the stretch as Stony Brook surged to its first regular season crown.

Steve's selections:
Blakeley
Holland
El-Amin
Bryan Dougher, Stony Brook
McLemore

SECOND TEAM

Joe Zeglinski, Jr., guard, Hartford ... 16.7 points
Bryan Dougher, So., guard, Stony Brook ... 13.6 points, 42% 3s
Evan Fjeld, Jr., forward, Vermont ... 10.6 points, 5.9 rebounds, 55% FGs
Sean McNally, Jr., center, Maine ... 10.1 points, 7.3 rebounds
Jake O'Brien, So., forward, Boston U. ... 13.0 points, 6.6 rebounds

Steve's Selections
Zeglinski
Alvin Abreu, New Hampshire
McNally
Brenton
Greer Wright, Binghamton

THIRD TEAM

Greer Wright, Jr., guard, Binghamton ... 15.0 points, 6.0 rebounds, 3.2 assists
Maurice Joseph, Sr., guard, Vermont ... 14.3 points
Morgan Sabia, So., forward, Hartford ... 11.9 points, 6.1 rebounds
Junior Bernal, Sr., guard, Maine ... 8.2 points, 5.3 rebounds, 3.4 assists, 1.2 steals
Corey Lowe, Sr., guard, Boston U. ... 14.1 points, 4.3 assists

Steve's selections
Lowe
Chris DeLaRosa, UMBC
Fjeld
Bernal
O'Brien

PLAYER OF THE YEAR

Marqus Blakely, Vermont ... unanimous pick from Dan and Steve. Quite simply there isn't anybody in the league who does more, game-in and game-out, to help his team win.

COACH OF THE YEAR

Dan: Steve Pikiell, Stony Brook
Steve: Ted Woodward, Maine

ALL-DEFENSIVE TEAM

* Dan: Marqus Blakely, Tommy Brenton, Junior Bernal, Evan Fjeld, Terrance Mitchell, Maine.
* Steve: Marqus Blakely, Terrance Mitchell, Tommy Brenton, Murphy Burnatowski, Maine, Dane DiLiegro, New Hampshire.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

More Bing problems?

Rumors are swirling around that part of the reason Binghamton backed out of the America East tournament is that there are additional disciplinary problems over and above what has already been divulged.

If this is true, the problems at Binghamton run deeper than anybody could possibly have imagined and it makes the reasons for the withdrawal a little easier to understand.

Quite a statement on your program when you feel you have pull it out of a conference tournament just two days before the teams begin arriving in Hartford.

Going to be interesting to see just how hard the hammer falls on Binghamton.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Playoff shuffle

With Binghamton pulling out of the America East Conference tournament, the playoff pairings have been shuffled. The play-in game scheduled for Thursday between UMBC and Albany has been cancelled. The No. 6 through 9 seeds each moved up one slot. The new pairings look like this:

1. Stony Brook vs. 8. Albany
4. Boston U. vs. 5. Hartford
2. Vermont vs. 7. UMBC
3. Maine vs. 6. New Hampshire

The big loser appears to be Boston U., which goes from playing Binghamton to having to play Hartford on its home floor. The Terriers will be a prohibitive favorite, but the prospect of playing a lower seed on its home court is never attractive.

The big winners would be Albany and UMBC. Instead of one of those schools having to win a game just to get into the quarterfinal round, they are both in ... and rested to boot.

Bearcats out

The Press & Sun Bulletin in Binghamton just reported that Binghamton University has withdrawn its men's basketball team from the America East Tournament.

Citing the "controversy currently surrounding the program" and the "possible distractions that may occur this weekend," Binghamton President Lois DeFleur made the announcement.

Two questions that need to be asked: Why now (and not, say, a few months ago)? What distractions?

My guess is that this is a "granstanding" move by an administration that is melting in the face of pressure. As for the distractions, well, I would presume she is referring to the prospect of Binghamton possibly winning a game or two and having the past indescretions brought up anew.

On both counts, the Binghamton administration has taken two big swings and missed badly. This decision does not make them look good in any sense of the word. It only makes them look desperate. They have now effectively punished the rest of the schools, their students and fans, for their own wrongdoings.

After careful consideration, the league needs to severely penalize Binghamton.

Binghamton pulling out?

In quite possibly the most bizarre twist in the sorry Binghamton University basketball saga, there are reports circulating that the Bearcats may not take part in this weekend's America East Tournament.

Yes, only two days before all the teams congregate in Hartford, it appears there is some question about the attendance of the fifth-seeded team. Binghamton is scheduled to play Boston U. Saturday afternoon in the tourney's second quarterfinal matchup.

The New York Times reported that Binghamton University and the conference are "trying to decide if the Bearcats will play in the tourney."

Of course, this has a major impact on every team in the field because if Binghamton is out, then all the matchups change and the play-in game on Thursday (UMBC and Albany) would be canceled.

Hartford would move up to No. 5 (and play Boston U.), New Hampshire would slide to No. 6 (UMaine), UMBC would move to No. 7 (Vermont) and Albany takes the No. 8 spot (Stony Brook).

This not acceptable on many different fronts.

First, the notion that Binghamton and the league are trying to decide is laughable. The league, if it was going to make a decision to exclude Binghamton for its transgressions, would have done so long ago; or, at minimum, shortly after the results of a State of New York System investigation were released a month ago.

The fact that Binghamton's participation is in question at this late stage clearly indicates that the school is getting wet feet about taking part in the tournament and possibly bringing more attention and spotlight on its recent misdeeds.

The league spoke loud and clear by selling tickets and promoting a tournament that includes nine schools. In fact, the league's website extolls the excitement of 18 teams (men's and women's) playing for their respective NCAA bids. If America East had plans to exclude Binghamton's men's team it would have been done long before now.

In no uncertain terms, the league should move fast to quash any Binghamton attempt to exit the tournament. This is a joke.

Binghamton needs to get its house in order -- that much is clear -- but not at the expense of the other eight schools in the league. If Binghamton pulls out of the tournament, they should be told, "Don't show up next year, either. In fact, make it two years. We'll see you in 2013."

Sunday, February 28, 2010

All-Rookie Team

It's postseason honors time. Sandwiched between the end of the regular season and the conference tournament is the period when we salute the best of America East. We'll get things started with the All-Rookie team and the Rookie of the Year. Steve and I made our selections and then compared notes. Our All-Rookie team was unanimous.

Dylan Talley
Binghamton
6-5 -- Guard
10.7 points, 3.7 rebounds, 2 assists
The rangy guard has been a key figure in Binghamton's surprising fifth-place finish.
Murphy Burnatowski
Maine
6-7 -- Forward
5.7 points, 3.7 rebounds, 1.1 assists
Burnatowski has become a force on offense and defense for the Black Bears. While his offensive numbers are modest, he is now at least someone opposing coaches must consider in their gameplans.
Ferq Myrick
New Hampshire
6-6 -- Forward
6.7 points, 2.1 rebounds
Might be the most offensively skilled freshman in the league. He has the potential to be a very good America East player in upcoming years.
Mike Black
Albany
6-0 -- Guard
6.6 points, 2 assists
He's had some outstanding games and has gotten better as the season progressed.
Adrian Satchell
Maryland-Baltimore County
6-5 -- Forward
6 points, 5 rebounds
Like Myrick, another raw talent that is waiting to burst out.

Honorable Mention: Charles White, Hartford, Logan Aronhalt, Albany, Marcus Rouse, Stony Brook, Chandler Rhoads, New Hampshire.

ROOKIE OF THE YEAR -- MURPHY BURNATOWSKI
He gets the nod over Talley based on his contributions to a 19-win regular season and his ability to impact a game on both ends of the floor. Murphy's got a chance of becoming only the third UMaine player to win the award and first since Francois Bouchard in 1991. Rick Carlisle ('80) is the other.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Itinerary taking shape

The schedule for our trip to Hartford is coming into focus. After a loss to Albany Saturday night, the UMaine women will start our weekend with the play-in game against UNH. That contest will start at 6 p.m. and is followed by Albany and UMBC on the men's side.

If the UMaine women win against UNH, they'll play top-seeded Hartford at 6 p.m. Friday.

Saturday brings the men's quarterfinals. We know the Black Bears will play in the evening session, but the time slot depends on the outcomes of two games on Sunday -- Albany at Hartford and Stony Brook at UNH.

Boston U. 76, Black Bears 56

UMaine didn't defend well, didn't rebound, didn't shoot well, turned the ball over and got beat to numerous loose balls. That about covers Saturday's loss at Boston U.

The Terriers used a barrage of three-pointers, many of them uncontested, to build a big early lead and cruised to the America East victory.

The loss locks the Black Bears in at the No. 3 seed for next week's America East tournament. Boston U. goes in as the No. 4. UMaine will play Hartford or New Hampshire in the quarterfinal round.

Forget this one. It's tournament time and if a team doesn't bring it now, the season will be over.

Quarterfinals taking shape

Regular season champion Stony Brook has selected a noon starting time for its quarterfinal round game on March 6. The Seawolves will play the winner of the March 4 play-in game between Albany and Maryland-Baltimore County.

That means the Black Bears, as the No. 2 or No. 3 seed, will play in the second quarterfinal session at either 6 p.m. or 8:30 p.m. Today's game at Boston University and Vermont's date with Binghamton Sunday will determine the schedule.

Boston U. and Binghamton are set as the 2:30 p.m. quarterfinal matchup following Stony Brook.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Give a T to Maine sports fans

Can hardly believe it's been 11 years since attending our first America East Tournament in Delaware. We look forward to this event so much every year and enjoy the atmosphere and competition.

It's truly a pleasure to see ballplayers at this level of Division 1, competing for that one shot at playing in an NCAA Tournament. While the big time D1 programs are permeated by a professional "hands off" type of atmosphere, leagues like America East have a unique closeness about them. You can talk to the players and coaches and they actually enjoy the relationships and appreciate their fans.

The only regret I have is that UMaine, for whatever reason, does not have the type of following evident at other schools in America East. And it's not even close. At any other place in the league, a team having the success that Maine has had this year would have been banging out their arenas and gyms.

Not in Orono, though. The Black Bears get no home crowd. Ever.

Nineteen-win seasons don't grow on trees in Maine. Yet, no one seems to have noticed. Guess there's just only so much room at the Maine sports fans' table.

Black Bears (19-9, 10-4) at Boston U. (16-12, 10-5)

Saturday, Feb. 27, 2:30 p.m.
Case Gym, Boston

Boston University can pull into a third-place tie with the Black Bears in the standings, but it can't get to the No. 3 seed. UMaine has clinched the No. 3 spot, but with a victory, puts itself in position for a possible No. 2 seed (if Vermont loses to Binghamton Sunday).

Since a 19-point loss at Stony Brook, the Black Bears have won three straight by average of 15 points a game. BU will seek to avenge a last-second loss at Orono. The Black Bears won that game on a Mike Allison put-back off an inbounds play.

The Terriers feature one of the most potent lineups in America East with four players averaging double figures. Junior forward John Holland scored 43 points in BU's Bracket Buster win over Delaware. He is a threat from anywhere on the floor. Senior guard Corey Lowe can get hot from outside. Sophomore forward Jake O'Brien was last year's rookie of the year and has elevated his game this season. Guards Carlos Strong and Tyler Morris (back from injury) are veterans capable of strong games.

While the Terriers haven't quite lived up to their pre-season selection by coaches to win the regular season title, they are adjusting quite nicely under first-year coach Pat Chambers. Chambers replaced longtime BU bench boss Dennis Wolff.

Terriers to watch:
John Holland, 6-5 junior forward ... 19.8 points, 6.1 rebounds
Corey Lowe, 6-2 senior guard ... 14.2 points, 4.6 rebounds, 4.3 assists
Jake O'Brien, 6-8 sophomore forward ... 13.1 points, 6.6 rebounds
Carlos Strong, 6-2 senior guard ... 10 points, 4.9 rebounds, 48 percent on 3-pointers

For UMaine to win: Block out, block out, block out ... Black Bears must hold their own on the boards. BU is one of the teams in the league that can play muscle-ball with UMaine. Terriers have two guards averaging five rebounds. They put a big lineup on the floor that features bruising 6-9, 240-pound center Jeff Pelage ... Take care of the ball. UMaine committed just six turnovers against Albany. A repeat performance would be huge against BU ... Chase Strong, Holland and Lowe off the three-point line. Don't let them get comfortable from behind the arc.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Black Bears 66, Albany 53

With Wednesday's win over Albany, the Black Bears have clinched no worse than the No. 3 seed in next week's America East Tournament in Hartford. UMaine could move to the No. 2 spot if the Black Bears win at Boston U. Saturday and Vermont loses to Binghamton Sunday.

Either way, UMaine will play either Hartford or New Hampshire in the quarterfinals.

Murphy Burnatowski led the Black Bears attack offensively and defensively. He had 20 points, six rebounds, 4 steals and two blocked shots. Junior Bernal had 10 points and six assists. Gerald McLemore tossed in 13 points.

UMaine had 10 steals in the game and committed only six turnovers. The Black Bears held Albany to 22 second-half points.

Boston U. can pull into a tie with the Black Bears for third place. UMaine would get the No. 3 seed in the tie-breaker, though, with its win over Stony Brook.

The America East Tournament gets underway Thursday, March 4 with the first round game between UMBC and Albany. The quarterfinals are scheduled for Saturday, March 6 and the semifinals Sunday, March 7. The time slots for the semifinals will be announced shortly after the completion of the regular season on Sunday.

Seeding showdowns

With only three dates left in the America East regular season, the only certainty for the upcoming conference tournament is the play-in game matchup. Also known as the PIG, the first round game will feature Albany and Maryland-Baltimore County and take place at 8:30 p.m. on March 4.

Albany's last play-in game appearance was in 2004 and UMBC lands here after two straight title-game appearances.

Still to be determined are positions 1 and 2 (Stony Brook and Vermont), 3 and 4 (Maine and Boston U.) and seeds 5 through 7 (Binghamton, Hartford and UNH).

Eight games in three days:

Today, Feb. 24
Albany at Maine
Vermont at Stony Brook
UMBC at UNH
Hartford at Binghamton
Saturday, Feb. 27
Maine at Boston U.
Sunday, Feb. 28
Binghamton at Vermont
Stony Brook at UNH
Albany at Hartford

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Albany (7-22, 2-12) at Black Bears (18-9, 10-4)

Wednesday, Feb. 24, 7:30 p.m.
Alfond Arena, Orono

Looking at Albany's individual statistics, it's hard to figure this team is 2-12 in America East and 7-22 overall. Three players are shooting between 33 percent and 45 percent on 3-pointers, six players average between 3.7 rebounds and 5 rebounds a game. But proof that basketball comes down to being a team game is shown in two key stats: opponents field goal percentage and turnovers.

The Danes have 106 more total turnovers than their opponents and are allowing opponents to shoot .439 percent from the floor; a lethal mix.

This is a team, however, that was picked to finish third in the pre-season coaches poll. They are dangerous and, under Will Brown, have established themselves as a hard-nosed team that will fight for rebounds and compete.

The Danes and Maryland-Baltimore County will meet in the conference tournament play-in game on March 4. The winner of that game will play either Stony Brook or Vermont.

Danes to watch:
Will Harris (6-5, Sr. forward) ... 12.5 points, 4.3 rebounds, 39 percent on 3-pointers
Mike Black (6-0, Fr. guard) ... 6.6 points, 45 percent on 3-pointers
Tim Ambrose (6-0, Jr. guard) ... 13.3 points, 5 rebounds, 33 percent on 3-pointers
Scotty McRae (6-8, Sr. forward) ... 6.1 points, 4.5 rebounds

For UMaine to win: keep hammering the boards and keep Albany off balance with a "spread the wealth" offense ... Look for UMaine to post up with its taller guards, too. Gerald McLemore (6-3), Junior Bernal (6-5) and Terrance Mitchell (6-3) have a size advantage on Black and Ambrose. ... Get a whiff of the finish line. Black Bears should be motivated to the hilt with the chance to clinch third place (with a win vs. Albany) and/or stay in the running for a share of the league title (if things fall right).

Title thoughts

While we have centered most of our discussion here on the race for seeds in the upcoming America East tournament, don't forget the Black Bears still have a shot at a piece of the regular season title.

UMaine can't get to the No. 1 seed, but the Black Bears could get a share of the crown if:
Black Bears beat Albany and win at Boston U.;
Stony Brook loses to Vermont and at UNH;
Vermont wins at Stony Brook and loses to Binghamton.

Can't happen you say? Well, league coaches picked UMaine to finish eighth, only two points in front of a decimated Binghamton club, and look at what has transpired with both those programs.

As the immortal Joaquin Andujar once said, "youneverknow."

Murphy's law

Murphy Burnatowski Monday was named America East rookie of the week for his play in UMaine wins over New Hampshire and Hartford.

The 6-7, 230-pound forward out of Waterloo, Ontario, had 10 points, six rebounds and four blocked shots in the Black Bears' 72-53 win at Durham, N.H. Then, Sunday, he had 10 points, seven rebounds and two blocks as UMaine downed Hartford, 66-52, at Alfond Arena.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Two at the top

Gerald McLemore and E.J. Kusnyer of Mercer are tied for the NCAA lead in 3-point field goals made with 94. McLemore leads the country in 3-point field goals per game at 3.5.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Black Bears 66, Hartford 52

The Black Bears maintained their grip on third place in America East with the win over a shorthanded Hartford club.

With a balanced attack, UMaine defeated a Hawks team that was missing three players, including leading scorer Joe Zeglinski, who were serving suspensions. The reason for the suspensions was undisclosed.

The two teams could meet in the quarterfinal round of next week's America East tournament. Binghamton (7-7 in the league after a win Sunday over UMBC), Hartford (5-9) and New Hampshire (5-9) are jockeying for the five, six and seven seeds. The Black Bears can lock up the No. 3 seed with a win Wednesday against Albany.

Sean McNally registered a double-double with 16 points and 16 rebounds to spark UMaine to a huge rebounding edge. Terrance Mitchell added 15 points. Junior Bernal also went for a double-double with 13 points, 10 rebounds, six assists and three steals. Murphy Burnatowski was the fourth Black Bear in double figures with 10 points. He had seven rebounds.

The 18 wins is the most for UMaine since the 2003-04 team went 20-10 and advanced to the America East title game.

Hartford (7-9, 5-8) at Black Bears (17-9, 9-4)

Sunday, Feb. 21, 2 p.m.
Alfond Arena, Orono

This game is possible preview of the 3/6 game in the upcoming America East tournament ... at Hartford. The Hawks have a chance to overtake Binghamton for the No. 5 spot (or could slide to No. 7) and a victory against the Black Bears would be crucial.

There has been virtually no movement, however, in the America East standings for the past four or five weeks.

UMaine is battling to hang on to the No. 3 position as Vermont and Stony Brook have essentially wrapped up the top two spots. Boston U. still has hopes of overtaking the Black Bears, but UMaine can thwart those hopes by winning home games against Hartford and Albany in advance of the Feb. 27 date at Boston U.

Hartford is a dangerous opponent today. Joe Zeglinski is one of the top 3-point shooters in the country, burly junior Joel Barkers clears out space underneath and Morgan Sabia rebounds and is a lethal shooter from outside.

Hartford stat leaders
Zeglinski, 6-0 junior, guard ... 16.4 points, 35 percent 3-pointers
Barkers, 6-6 junior, forward ... 9.4 points, 4.8 rebounds
Morgan Sabia, 6-8 junior, forward ... 12.1 points, 6 rebounds, 39 percent 3-pointers

Closing schedules
Stony Brook ... Vermont, at UNH
Vermont ... at Stony Brook, Binghamton
Maine ... Hartford, Albany, at Boston U.
Boston U. ... Maine
Binghamton ... UMBC, Hartford, at Vermont
Hartford ... at Maine, at Binghamton, Albany
New Hampshire ... UMBC, Stony Brook
Albany ... at Maine, at Hartford
UMBC ... at Binghamton, at UNH

Saturday, February 20, 2010

AE sweeps

America East went 3-for-3 in its Bracket Buster games Saturday. Vermont won at home against Fairfield (Northeast Conference) while Boston U. and New Hampshire won on the road.

BU clubbed Delaware (Colonial Athletic Association) and UNH edged Loyola, Md. (Metro Atlantic Athletic Association). UNH won as Tyrone Conley hit a shot with .7 left after starting the game 0 for 10 from the floor.

Disco inferno

Forgot to mention a humorous event from the New Hampshire game that involved Terrance Mitchell.

At the end of the first half, the Black Bears were inbounding the ball and had the length of the court to go for a hoop. With 1.6 seconds on the clock, Troy Barnies (if memory serves) threw a baseball pass to Mitchell who was on the right sideline somwhere between mid-court and the hash mark. As time expired, Mitchell tossed up a desperation 3-pointer and was inexplicably fouled. That wasn't so funny to UNH coach Bill Herrion.

The humor came as Mitchell lined up to shoot the free throws. As he was getting ready to loft the first one, UMaine coach Ted Woodward, the bench and Black Bear fans noticed the scorer's table hadn't turned off the bright orange lights that outline the backboard when the shot clock/game clock expires. Mitchell made the first, then the second, with the lights on before the scorer's table and the officials shut it off. Then Mitchell made the third.

Good concentration on Mitchell's part.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Chart toppers

Sophomore guard Gerald McLemore has moved to the top of the nation's 3-point shooting list. His seven bombs at UNH put him at 92. A.J. Kusnyer of Mercer is second with 87. Corey Hassan (86) of Sacred Heart and Hartford's Joe Zeglinski (85) round out the top four. Hassan began his career at Boston U.

The top power conference 3-point shooters are Jeremy Hazell of Seton Hall and Rotnei Clarke of Arkansas, tied for sixth with 83.

The Black Bears, third in the America East standings, once again moved back to the top of the league in the RPI. UMaine is at 136 with Stony Brook (146) and Vermont (147) next. The Black Bears' edge stems from strength of schedule. UMaine's is ranked 251 while Stony Brook is at 322 and Vermont at 316. There are 348 teams in Division 1.

Notes

New Hampshire coach Bill Herrion weighed in with this following the Black Bears' dismantling of his Wildcats Wednesday night:
“They’re an extremely physical team that manhandled us. They took us behind the shed and laid it on us.”

High praise when you consider that Herrion, while at Drexel, was the lead conductor of some of the meanest, nastiest, toughest teams America East has ever seen.

Despite 21 turnovers, the Black Bears continue to impress observers with offensive sets that feature crunching screens, strong rip-throughs with the ball and, generally, a "Won't back down," thrust. In recent years, it wasn't uncommon to see the Bears offense repeatedly retreating toward mid-court. Now, the offense is being run inside the three-point arc consistently and the defenses are having a hard time moving Maine out. It's a recipe for success.

On defense, the Black Bears continue to harrass all the way to the rim and don't give up many easy looks. Again, that is a recipe for success.

Wednesday's game was on television and Steve heard an interesting comment from color man Frank Sullivan. When talking about UMaine's Canadian contingent, freshmen frontcourters Murphy Burnatowski and Mike Allsion, Sullivan said something like, "And I hear they have another one coming from the same area." Sullivan didn't elaborate, but it leaves you to wonder if he let something slip on 6-2 guard Jahenns Manigat, who plays for the Regional Elite Development Academy.

Consider me envious: Have been attending UMaine games at New Hampshire long enough to remember dates at the ice arena across the street. When UNH first moved back to Lundholm Gym, the place was dark, dingy and, to say the least, a morgue. Now, hoop games at UNH are just outright fun. They've done a great job updating and improving the facility. Combined with an entertaining game presentation, fans are turning out. If UNH put together a run of solid seasons, the place would be bonkers. It's the height of irony that UNH, of all places, has a homecourt atmopshere like this and UMaine (despite more success at the America East level through the years) has no atmosphere whatsoever at home games. However, it is proof that it can happen if the right moves are made. First on the list? Get the renovation of The Pit back on the table. Hey, maybe I should start a "Pit Fund." All proceeds going toward creating a home for UMaine men's and women's basketball.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Black Bears 72, New Hampshire 53


McLemore leads country in 3s
Bernal hits a milestone

Nothing feels better for a road team than taking the air out of a large and loud crowd and then sending them to the exits early. That's what the Black Bears did Wednesday at New Hampshire.

In a wire-to-wire performance (excuse me if we overlook the fact UNH briefly tied the game at 8-8 after the Black Bears jumped out to an 8-0 lead), UMaine put the clamps on, hounding the Wildcats into 28-percent shooting from the floor.

The Black Bears received solid contributions from a variety of sources, beginning with Gerald McLemore, who ripped the nets for 30 points and was 7 of 10 on 3-pointers. McLemore now leads the entire country in 3-pointers made with 92.

Murphy Burnatowski kicked in 10 points, six rebounds and four blocked shots as UMaine established superiority in the paint. Troy Barnies came off the bench and provided a spark with 14 points and five rebounds. His spin move to his left hand for a second half lay-in was a highlight move, as were a couple of follow-up dunks late in the game.

Junior Bernal had another solid all-around game with five points, five rebounds, four assists and two steals. Bernal surpassed the 1,000-point mark for his career with a free throw early in the game.

All this was done with Sean McNally limited by foul trouble and a sore foot (tweaked in practice a couple days ago). Mike Allison, Terrance Mitchell and Andrew Rogers also provided strong play as UMaine won going away.

The Black Bears were able to maintain their 16-point halftime lead despite 21 turnovers (one of the only sore spots of the game).

New Hampshire was only 2 of 15 (13 percent) from deep in the game, while UMaine hit 10 of 19 (53 percent).

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Black Bears (16-9, 8-4) at UNH (10-14, 5-8)

Wednesday, Feb. 17, 7 p.m.
Lundholm Gym, Durham, N.H.

If the Black Bears have any thoughts of cruising down I-95 to pick up a gift-wrapped victory in advance of a two-game homestand, they might want to check New Hampshire's America East resume.

While UNH seems destined for a seventh-place finish in the league standings, the Wildcats have been fighting toe-to-toe with everybody in the league.

UNH has lost twice in overtime (at Binghamton, at Vermont). They've also lost to Hartford twice by three points, the second on last-second 3-pointer from Joe Zeglinski. Early in the league schedule, UNH dropped a couple other close games ... four points to BU and six points at league leading Stony Brook (where the Black Bears were thumped).

The Wildcats finish with three straight home games, but face an uphill climb to get out of seventh place. They'd have to leapfrog Hartford in the standings (the Hawks hold the tiebreaker). Binghamton is two games up on UNH in the loss column with four games left -- two of them at home (Hartford and UMBC).

Still, don't expect the Wildcats to go quietly into the New England night on Wednesday. This is a club that was within a whisker of knocking off eventual league champ Binghamton in the tourney semifinals last year.

UNH players to watch
Alvin Abreu ... 6-2 guard, 14. 8 points
Tyrone Conley ... 6-2 guard, 12.0 points, 34 percent on 3s
Dane DiLiegro ... 6-8 center, 9.3 points, 8.4 rebounds
Radar Onguetou ... 6-5 forward, 5.8 points, 6 rebounds

At stake for UMaine
Keep winning games, hang on to third place and see what happens with the leaders. ... America East history shows that seeding is crucial come conference tourney time. The higher you finish, the better your chances, it's as simple as that. ... Stony Brook finishes with three out of four on the road, beginning tonight at UMBC. Doesn't appear that Seawolves will stumble, but then again? ... Vermont has pretty much sewn up no worse than second place and could pass Stony Brook with a beneficial three-game finish (at Hartford, at Stony, Binghamton). ... Black Bears can diffuse any thoughts Boston U. has of overtaking third place in the finale on Feb. 27 by taking care of business in the next three. It starts with UNH Wednesday.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Playoff positioning

Boston University's narrow win over Hartford Saturday keeps the Terriers in contention for a third-place showdown with UMaine on the final weekend of the America East season.

The Black Bears, however, can ruin the Terrier hopes before they arrive at Case Gym on Feb. 27.

UMaine has three games on the schedule (at UNH, Hartford, Albany) before the finale. Meanwhile, BU has just one (Binghamton). If the Black Bears take care of business and get three wins, the best BU could do is tie at 11-5.

The tiebreaker most likely would come down to games against Stony Brook (both BU and UMaine were swept by Vermont). The Black Bears split against Stony Brook while BU was swept.

That makes Wednesday's Black Bear date at New Hampshire pretty big.

Recruiting trail

Kyle Callanan, a 6-2, 190-pound guard out of Mt. Anthony (Vt.), reportedly lists UMaine, Holy Cross, Fairfield and Central Connecticut as schools he is interested in.

Callanan has played some point guard for the Albany City Rocks AAU team in the past year. His coach at Albany recently indicated Callanan would likely make his decision this spring.

This season, he has become Mt. Anthony's all-time leader in points and assists.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Bearcats busted

The long-awaited state of New York review of the Binghamton athletic program has been released. What was suspected was confirmed:

Binghamton University's conference title and first NCAA appearance last year came at a steep cost to the school's reputation. Academic funny business, alleged payouts, cover-ups and athletes out of control were the basic themes of the report.

Now, all that's left is for Binghamton University to mend its ways.

I have no doubt they'll do exactly that. Having attended three America East tournaments at the Vestal, N.Y., campus, the school has much going for it. A beautiful arena, a nice campus, a large and supportive fan base. Our observation of Binghamton is that of a school with much going for it.

They'll survive this and eventually win a league title the right way, I suspect.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Stony Brook 83, Black Bears 64

Ouch. Everybody expected an all-out battle for first place Wednesday between Stony Brook and the Black Bears. It never materialized as the Seawolves blitzed UMaine in New York.

The loss leaves the Black Bears (16-9 overall, 8-4 America East) most likely fighting for no better than third place in the league. Vermont is 9-3 and holds the head-to-head tiebreaker. Stony Brook is in first alone at 9-2. Even if the Black Bears were to somehow get into a tie, the Seawolves would prevail by virtue of having a win over Vermont.

UMaine now has a week to get ready for a Feb. 17 trip to New Hampshire.

Black Bears (16-8, 8-3) at Stony Brook (16-7, 8-2)

Wednesday, Feb. 10, 7 p.m.
Pritchard Gym, Stony Brook, N.Y.

The Black Bears toppled Stony Brook, 67-61, in Orono. Since then, the Seawolves have won five straight. While UMaine will be playing its third game in five days (two of them on the road), Stony Brook has been off since Feb. 3.

The winner of this game will remain in strong contention for the regular-season title. The loser will need some help down the stretch as Vermont put itself in a strong position with its win at BU Tuesday.

The match-up features two physical teams. Stony Brook's frontcourt of Dallis Joyner (7.7 points, 7.1 rebounds) and Tommy Brenton (7.9 points, 9.3 rebounds) are glass eaters. Muhammad El-Amin (15.1 points, 3.5 rebounds), a 6-5 guard, leads the Seawolves in scoring.

Guard Bryan Dougher (13.9 points) is one of the top 3-point threats in America East.

For the Black Bears to win: Front line of Sean McNally, Troy Barnies, Murphy Burnatowski, along with subs Malachi Peay and Mike Allison must continue the strong play from the past couple games. ... While Stony Brook has some terrific ball-hounds, they rely heavily on El-Amin, Dougher and guard Chris Martin for scoring. UMaine may have a little more balance. Use that offensive balance to gain an advantage. ... Savor the atmosphere. As in years past whenever UMaine fields a contender, the team enjoys going on the road for big games in front of enthusiastic crowds. It takes forever (if ever) for the bandwagon to fill up at Alfond, so Black Bear teams relish the roadies.

UMaine leads the all-time series with Stony Brook, 12-8.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Vermont clips BU

What does Vermont's win at Boston University Tuesday night mean for the Black Bears?

It means that UMaine needs to knock off Stony Brook Wednesday and complete a season sweep of the Seawolves to retain realistic hopes of a regular-season title and the No. 1 seed for the America East tournament.

Top of the AE:
Stony Brook ... 8-2
Vermont ......... 9-3
Maine .............. 8-3

By virtue of its season sweep, Vermont wins any tie-breaker with UMaine. That's why BU's failure to hold a four-point lead with a minute left stung a bit in the Black Bears' camp. If BU holds on, Vermont is saddled with a fourth loss with upcoming games against Binghamton and Stony Brook. Now, Vermont is in prime position to make a run at the title ... barring a major slipup. I don't see that happening.

That makes tomorrow night's game on Long Island huge. Win and the Black Bears are likely in the hunt to the end.

Remaining schedules of the AE leaders:

Stony Brook
Maine
Binghamton
at UMBC
at Albany
Vermont
atUNH

Vermont
UNH
at Hartford
at Stony Brook
Binghamton

Maine
at Stony Brook
at UNH
Hartford
Albany
at Boston U.

Recruiting trail

Black Bears have reportedly offered to Latif Rivers of Avon Old Farms (Conn.).

Rivers, a 6-0 guard, earned New England Recruiting Report accolades last week for his performance. He scored 24 points with seven assists and three steals vs. Westminster and followed it up with 36 points, four assists and five steals against Kent.

His season averages: 20.5 points, 4.8 rebounds, 3.9 assists and 2.5 steals.

ESPN's Insider on Rivers: "Rivers is a power guard with all the tools. He shoots it well from behind the arc, has a powerful frame, and goes hard to the rim. He plays with a super high motor and has the ball skills to play some point, but can dominate the ball ..."

Rivers also lists St. Peters, Long Island, Stony Brook, New Hampshire, Eastern Kentucky, Lehigh and Central Connecticut as suitors.

Looking back

When UMBC upset the Black Bears on Jan. 30 at Alfond Arena, it was natural to reflect on the game two years earlier, when UMaine -- on its way to a 7-23 season -- toppled eventual America East champ UMBC on its home floor.

Of course, a big difference in the two upsets was the fact Maine's win took place a month earlier in the league schedule and nobody knew how badly UMaine would stumble the rest of the year. The Retrievers were a good team and everybody knew it. Last week's UMBC upset was authored by a team that already had nine- and 11-game losing streaks on its resume.

Just for kicks, let's look at the results of the "payback" games from those two seasons. In 2008, UMBC traveled to Orono and pasted the Black Bears by 17 (85-68). Yesterday, the Black Bears led by as many as 38 before settling for a 21-point verdict (84-63).

What does it all mean? Not sure ... yet.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Black Bears 84, UMBC 63

UMaine will play for at least a piece of first place Wednesday night at Stony Brook after Monday's thrashing of UMBC.

Gerald McLemore poured in 8 of 12 shots (7 of 10 from range) for 25 points as the Black Bears gained revenge for the last-second loss to the Retrievers just nine days ago.

The Black Bears (16-8, 8-3 America East) pulled to within a half-game of first-place Stony Brook (8-2 America East). Vermont is 8-3 in the league and plays Boston University Tuesday night.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Black Bears (15-8, 7-3) at UMBC (2-21, 1-9)

Monday, Feb. 8, 7 p.m.
The RAC, Baltimore

Fresh in the Black Bears' minds will be the stinging loss to Maryland-Baltimore County less than two weeks ago at Alfond Arena. At least, it should provide some motivation. The loss knocked UMaine out of first place and snapped a six-game winning streak.

On the line Monday for the Black Bears will be an opportunity to play for first place. Should UMaine knock off the Retrievers, they'd move within a half game of Stony Brook. They head to Long Island with a chance to reclaim a piece of first place Wednesday.

Look for UMaine to build on the Binghamton performance. The offense was spotty (efficient at times and a bit stale at others), but the defense was consistent and did a great job frustrating the Bearcats' top threats.

If the Black Bears can continue to produce points both inside and out, like they did in spurts against Binghamton, they have a chance to extract some revenge.

UMBC seems to be leaning more and more on freshman guard Chris De La Rosa. Look for UMaine to try and cut him off of bit. Stay in front of him and make someone else make plays. Look for Sean McNally, Troy Barnies, Murphy Burnatowski and Mike Allison to have solid games on the interior. If Malachi Peay can find his game, it would provide a big lift down the stretch.

The Retrievers are coming off a 79-60 home loss to Vermont Friday. UMaine topped Binghamton Saturday, 61-49.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Black Bears 61, Binghamton 49

Black Bears needed this one. Black Bears came out of the halftime locker room and took it.

After visiting Binghamton cut the Black Bear lead to 50-49 with a shade more than 2 minutes to go, UMaine closed with an 11-0 run for an important America East victory.

With the win, UMaine moves into sole possession of third-place, a half-game behind Vermont. The Black Bears and Vermont are even in the loss column. The Black Bears will board a plane for Baltimore Sunday en route to Monday's game at UMBC. It will be the first of three straight road games for UMaine.

Binghamton (11-14, 6-4 Amercia East) had come to Maine (15-8, 7-3) on a four-game win streak.

Sean McNally (15 points, 13 rebounds, 2 blocks) and Terrance Mitchell (15 points, 4 rebounds) sparked UMaine. Mitchell scored 14 of his points in the first half as the Black Bears struggled to a 25-22 lead.

Gerald McLemore contributed nine points and five rebounds and Murphy Burnatowski added seven points, five rebounds and two blocks.

The Black Bears' defense was consistent throughout, holding Binghamton's top scorer, Greer Wright to 11 points, all in the second half. Wright entered the game averaging 23 a game during the Bearcats' four-game winning streak. UMaine held a 6- to 10-point lead for much of the second half.

So frustrated were the Bearcats with their offensive sets that they resorted to spreading the floor and just giving the ball to Wright and asking him to go one-on-one. It didn't work as the Black Bears pulled away after the lead was cut to one. McLemore hit a huge 3-pointer from the left corner late in the contest.

Bundle up

Nothing says come attend an exciting game at UMaine more than a television shot of a family waving to the cameras with their gloves and winter coats on. Got to get out of Alfond.

Binghamton (11-13, 6-3) at Black Bears (14-8, 6-3)

Saturday, Feb. 6, noon
Alfond Arena, Orono

The magnitude of this game goes far beyond the simple battle of third-place teams looking to stay in contention for the regular-season title. That's the big picture for sure. But the smaller, more immediate matter is this -- The game is about which team will launch itself into a bevy of road games with a much-needed victory.

The Black Bears are coming off two-straight so-so performances and will head out on the road for three straight games (UMBC, Stony Brook, New Hampshire) after the Alfond date with Binghamton. UMaine needs to regain its footing with a solid performance today.

The Bearcats are on a tear, racking up four straight wins behind the stellar play of guard Greer Wright. Freshman guard Dylan Talley, since returning from a contusion, has been a solid contributor. Talley was out when the Black Bears topped Binghamton in overtime earlier this season.

Wright (15.7 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists) has thrust himself into the conversation for the league's player of the year. During the Bearcats' four-game winning streak, he has averaged 23.3 points, including a 30-point outburst against Vermont. He also dropped 29 on UNH.

Talley, a freshman guard, has moved to second on the team in scoring at 11.7 a game. Wright and Moussa Camara (10 points a game) are the Bearcats' top 3-point weapons.

For Black Bears to win: Make the Bearcats a perimeter shooting team, don't let them get to the rim. ... Get some production from the frontcourt. Teams are focusing on Gerald McLemore and the Black Bears' perimeter. UMaine must get results underneath. ... Get out of the blocks. UMaine, for whatever reason, admitted to taking UMBC lightly and paid dearly for it. Then, in a tough road game at Vermont, admitted to coming out with a lack of intensity and paid for that. It's time to show the lessons of those two games and the past several seasons have been learned. Not going to say this game is a must win, but it's close to it with a three-game trip on tap.

First meeting: UMaine 66, Binghamton 61 in OT.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Vermont 64, Black Bears 51

A sluggish start proved costly and the host Catamounts claimed their second victory over the Black Bears. Vermont now owns a season sweep over UMaine, crucial should the two teams tie in the final America East standings.

The loss dropped the Black Bears into third-place tie with Binghamton. The Black Bears host the Bearcats Saturday.

UMaine trailed the whole way at Vermont then fought its way back to within five points in the second half. The Black Bears could never get enough offense going, however, to complete the comeback. UMaine shot only 31 percent from the floor while Vermont connected on 46 percent.

Vermont frontcourters Marqus Blakely (22 points, 10 rebounds) and Evan Fjeld (13 and 10) led the Catamounts. Junior Bernal led the UMaine effort with 12 points and nine rebounds. Murphy Burnatowski had 13 points, four rebounds and three steals.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Lonergan on Black Bears

Vermont coach Mike Lonergan on the reason for the Black Bears' improved play this season:

“Probably experience and team chemistry, I always thought they had talent. ... Now they are playing with confidence.”

-- Burlington Free Press

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Black Bears (14-7, 6-2) at Vermont (15-8, 6-3)

Wednesday, Feb. 3, 7 p.m.
Patrick Gym, Burlington, Vt.

First meeting: Catamounts 64, Black Bears 56 ... Vermont broke away late at Orono in the America East opener for both clubs.

After a three-game slide, Vermont bounced back and thumped Albany Saturday. Meanwhile, the big question for UMaine is; Will the Black Bears bounce back after a lackluster home loss to UMBC?

Vermont has the league's top player in forward Marqus Blakely. Blakely is a rare commodity at the low-major level of Division 1: He can hurt opponents in a multitude of areas. He scores, rebounds, passes and defends. Cut him off in any one area and he'll just turn to something else. He doesn't force his game. He just dominates.

Guard Maurice Joseph and forward Evan Fjeld are his top cohorts.

Black Bears enter second half of league season in position to finish well above the expectations of America East coaches. UMaine has scored less than 60 points in 11 of its 21 games. Will that lack of offense come to roost down the stretch? Or will the team's defensive ability continue to produce low-scoring victories?

History is clear on one thing when it comes to the America East Conference and its post-season tournament: The high seeds have a huge advantage.

If that isn't motivation enough to get the Black Bears emotionally ready for each and every opponent, then nothing will.

The stretch drive to Hartford and the 2010 conference tourney begins Wednesday.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

UMBC 56, Black Bears 55

As far as stubbed toes go, the one suffered by the Black Bears today was a doozy. It may be throbbing for a few days.

After a shot-clock malfunction (this seems to have become a featured attraction for basketball games at Alfond) delayed the start of the game by 15 minutes, the Black Bears shooting stalled out for much of the afternoon. The Stillwater Avenue freezeout resulted in a loss to last-place Maryland-Baltimore County.

Despite 12 offensive rebounds and 10 steals, the Black Bears scored five fewer buckets than the Retrievers, who hadn't won since Dec. 20 against American. The Black Bears shot only 32 percent (17 for 53) from the floor and 64 percent (14 for 22) from the foul line. UMaine shot twice as many free throws as UMBC.

Still, with the clock winding down and a one-point lead, the Black Bears were in position to win the game. Sophomore guard Andrew Rogers missed a pair of free throws, however, and UMBC came back down the floor and won it on a short shot by seven-foot center Robbie Jackson.

Gerald McLemore paced UMaine with 16 points, but needed 16 shots to do it. Troy Barnies had 13 points and nine rebounds. Junior Bernal had nine points, seven rebounds, six assists and two steals. Rogers, a 55-percent foul shooter, had subbed in for Bernal (51 percent from the foul line) in the late-game situation where UMBC needed to foul.

Stubbed toes usually hurt for only a short while. Let's hope the Black Bears recover quickly.

Friday, January 29, 2010

UMBC (1-20, 0-8) at Black Bears (14-6, 6-1)

Saturday, Jan. 30, noon
Alfond Arena, Orono

Nobody in the entire college basketball universe has fallen farther (or faster) than Maryland-Baltimore County. One year after playing in its second consecutive America East title game --and two seasons after winning the league title and an NCAA bid -- the Retrievers have won one game sandwiched by losing streaks of nine and 11 games.

At the other end of the solar system are the Black Bears. The one-season turnaround being authored in Orono most likely has few peers. One year ago, coming off a seven-win season, UMaine won nine times and lost in the play-in game of the league tournament for the second consecutive year. Today, the Black Bears are riding a six-game winning streak and sit atop the America East standings.

UMBC is led by sophomore guard Chauncey Gilliam (12.7 points a game) and point guard Chris De La Rosa (10. 2 points, 4.9 assists). Gilliam was arguably the top freshman in America East last season, but a flagrant foul ejection against BU cost him dearly when it came to post-season awards. He's a streaky, left-handed shooter. Seven-foot center Robbie Jackson checks in at 9.5 points and 5.1 rebounds.

This is one of those danger-zone games. Black Bears coming off a big win over Boston U., with a trip to Vermont looming. Will the upstart Bears get caught taking a peek ahead or will they stay focused on the hurdle in front of them? I'm thinking the frustrations of recent seasons is still fresh enough to motivate UMaine for every game.

For those wondering: UMBC's lone win was Dec. 20 at American.

For UMaine to win: Hammer the Retrievers with McNally, Barnies, Burnatowski, Bernal and Allison. Abuse them in the paint. UMBC doesn't have the strength or depth to go toe-to-toe for 15 rounds. ... Challenge Chauncey: Don't let Gilliam get untracked. He's the guy who can make the scoreboard spin. ... Keep distributing: UMaine had 18 assists on 21 hoops vs. BU, a clear indication the team is functioning well in the half-court offense. Nothing frustrates an opponent more than an offense that keeps crunching out quality scoring opportunities.

RPI watch: Maine is at 112; UMBC is 346 (only Houston Baptist is lower).

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Recruiting trail

According to Scouts, Inc., point guard Thierno Niang is considering Providence and UMaine. Niang, who plays at Bridgton Academy, is listed at 6-foot, 175 pounds. According to Scouts, Inc., he's "lightning quick" but "turnover prone at the moment."

Niang, a native of Senegal, attended the Reebok 2009 Eurocamp for prospects last summer.

Jolt of vitamin BC

As expected, Boston College's win Tuesday over No. 21-ranked Clemson gave the Black Bears a little bump in the RPI. UMaine, which upset Boston College earlier this season, moved five spots, up to 115 from 120.

The next best America East RPI belonged to BU (No. 161) entering last night's game.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Black Bears 56, Boston U. 54

Mike Allison rebounded his own missed shot for a buzzer-beating put-back as the Black Bears toppled Boston U. Wednesday night. UMaine had a 10-point lead with five minutes left, but the Terriers fought back to tie it late.

With 2.9 seconds left, Junior Bernal inbounded the ball from just left of the UMaine bench. He threw a good lob pass as Allison came off a high screen set by Terrance Mitchell. BU switched on the play, putting a smaller player (think it was Corey Lowe) on Allison and he dove to the rim. Allison's attempt rolled off, but he quickly grabbed it on the other side and softly put it back up.

The win for the Black Bears could prove pivotal down the stretch as Boston U. finishes the regular season with four straight home games, the final one against UMaine. The Black Bears improved to 14-6 overall and 6-1 in America East.

Freshman Murphy Burnatowski led UMaine with 14 points. He was 4-of-6 on 3-pointers as the Black Bears connected on 40.5 percent (10 for 25) from distance. Mitchell added 10 points and four assists.

Junior Bernal led UMaine with 10 rebounds. He also had seven points and four assists. For the game, the Black Bears registered 18 assists on 21 hoops. Boston U. had only four assists as a team.

Boston U. (11-9, 6-2) at Black Bears (13-6, 5-1)

Wednesday, Jan, 27, 7:30 p.m.
Alfond Arena, Orono

Boston U. was the coaches pre-season pick for the America East title for good reason; Really, three good reasons: John Holland, Corey Lowe and Jake O'Brien.

Holland (19.6 points) is the league's leading scorer and would probably have a player of the year award in his trophy case if it weren't for Vermont's Marqus Blakely. Lowe (16.5) is a scoring guard who can blow up on any given evening. After flirting with transferring following the dismissal of longtime coach Dennis Wolff, the 6-8 Jake O'Brien is back for his sophomore campaign. He was rookie of the year last season. O'Brien averages 13.1 points.

All three can drop it from deep, but skilled enough to do other things closer to the rim. Former Villanova assistant Pat Chambers now leads the Terriers.

Point guard Tyler Morris injured a wrist earlier this season and has been out since Jan. 7. He was averaging 11.2 points a game. Southern Maine native Carlos Strong comes off the bench and is a 3-point threat.

This game is huge for Boston U. A Terriers win here could launch them into the second half of the league season. A season in which BU closes with four straight, yes, four straight, home games -- a huge advantage in the final two weeks.

For the Black Bears to win: Hound the 3-point line. BU will try to win the game there first. Force them to win it inside. Terriers lead America East with eight 3-pointers per game. ... Force them to run some offense. ... Hit the boards. After a so-so rebounding performance at Hartford, UMaine must get back to controlling the glass and limiting second-chance opportunities. Hartford had nine offensive rebounds to the Black Bears' two. Against BU, that won't work. ... Play steady, don't get rattled by runs. Boston U., by the nature of its talent, will make a run or two. Black Bears must limit the run-outs so that they don't become extended runs. ... Don't get over-excited. UMaine hasn't played in a game of this importance in a long, long time. None of the players on this team have ever been in a setting like this so it will be interesting to see what kind of composure the Black Bears have.

RPI note: UMaine is No. 120 as of Tuesday. Boston U. is 161. ... Look for the Black Bears to get a little RPI bump today after Boston College dumped No. 21 Clemson last night.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Canadian pipeline?

Black Bears are reportedly recruiting another player from the former National Elite Development Academy that produced UMaine freshmen Murphy Burnatowski and Mike Allison.

Now called the Regional Elite Development Academy, the Black Bears are reported to have interest in 6-2 point guard, Jahenns Manigat. He's from Ottawa. Check out some footage. Manigat is No. 4.

Bracketology Bears

Most hoop heads know how the "bracketology" game works at this stage of the season. Various college basketball experts from around the country make weekly stabs at forecasting the NCAA Tournament brackets and the subsequent placement of teams.

It's interesting to monitor. But it's especially interesting when and if: A.) You have tickets to one of the NCAA first- and second-round sites; and/or, B.) You're team is worthy of mention in the bracketology.

So, as presumptuous as it is at this point, it was a bit fun to check out Joe Lunardi's weekly update and see UMaine as a No. 15 seed opposite second-seeded Michigan State in Milwaukee. There's a lot of hay to bale before we get to March, but it sure is fun to see UMaine appearing on national websites visited by millions of hoop fans and players. It doesn't hurt. The ironic part of it is that more hoop fans outside the state of Maine are aware of what's going on than those within the state.

Now, if we can just start seeing the Black Bears slated for "The Dunk" in Providence where we'll be setting up shot in March ... that'd be good.

Monday, January 25, 2010

AE salutes G-Mac

As expected, Gerald McLemore earned America East Player of the Week honors. Not expected was that he had to share the award. He's the first Black Bear honored this season. Binghamton's Greer Wright shared the award with McLemore.

Wright and Binghamton went 1-1 on the week with Wright hitting for 30 Sunday in a win at Vermont. McLemore, meanwhile, helped UMaine to a 3-0 week, averaging nearly 20 a game, including a career high 27 Saturday at Hartford.

The America East release mistakenly referred to McLemore as a junior. He's a sophomore.