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).

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