Tuesday, January 31, 2012

AE Bracket Buster games

America East's Bracket Buster schedule:

Marist at Maine
Rider at Albany
Binghamton at Radford
Boston U. at Loyola
Hartford at St. Peter's
UMBC at Canisius
Towson at New Hampshire
Stony Brook at Northeastern
Niagara at Vermont

Marist it is

UMaine will host Marist Feb. 18 or 19 in the ESPN Bracket Buster Challenge. Marist plays in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference.

The Red Foxes currently are 7-14 overall and 2-8 in the MAAC.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Who's it going to be?

The Black Bears should find out who their Feb. 18 Bracket Buster opponent will be within the next couple days.

ESPN will announce its 13 Bracket Buster television matchups 6:30 p.m. tonight on ESPNU. The other games will come out in the following days.

Moving time

The back nine of the America East schedule has begun and if the Black Bears hold any hopes of moving up the leader board, the climb must begin Saturday at Maryland-Baltimore County.

Immediately following the game with the seventh-place Retrievers, UMaine will have four straight contests against the teams directly above it in the standings.

Thanks to the recent five-game skid, ascending to the No. 3 seed for the conference tourney is a longshot at best. It's not, however, inconceivable for the Black Bears to get to the No. 4 spot currently occupied by Albany.

UMaine's remaining America East schedule:

Feb. 4: at UMBC
Feb. 6: Vermont
Feb. 9: at Boston U.
Feb. 11: Albany
Feb. 15: at Hartford
Feb. 22: New Hampshire
Feb. 26: at Stony Brook

Friday, January 27, 2012

Fodder for renovation

The Black Bears have enjoyed incredible success at New Hampshire. I haven't missed a game in Durham in 13 or 14 years, but am still amazed at just how successful.

Since the 1983-84 season, the Black Bears are 24-5 at UNH, most of those games played at cozy Lundholm Gymnasium. There were at least a couple games played at the cavernous Whittemore Center before UNH made the decision to move all its games back to Lundholm.

Lundholm was spruced up about five or six years ago and now provides a solid college basketball atmosphere.

If New Hampshire can do it ...

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Lovin' Lundholm

Stealing a page from Tommy Heinsohn, let me say, "I love Lundholm."

Maybe my University of New Hampshire and America East friend is on to something. After yet another UMaine win at New Hampshire Wednesday night, a text arrived mentioning that "maybe the Black Bears ought to consider relocating its home games to Lundholm Gym and lure York and Cumberland county UMaine fans."

For whatever reason, the Black Bears love playing at Lundholm and it shows. Last night, UMaine pounded out an 80-69 win that snapped a five-game losing streak. The game was close throughout, but the Black Bears' dominance on the boards and ability to pick up key buckets from offensive sets made the difference each time the Wildcats threatened.

The Black Bears have won three straight at New Hampshire and are 8-1 on their border rivals' home floor since 2004.

Solid interior work by Ali Fraser, Mike Allison and Travon Wilcher was complemented by guards Gerald McLemore, Raheem Singleton and Justin Edwards.

UMaine proved to this viewer that it has the components to be a successful team in America East. Consistency will determine how that plays out.

With the victory, UMaine remains in sixth place, one game behind Hartford and two back of Albany.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Comes in threes

The next three games will have a strong impact on UMaine's ability to avoid the Thursday night play-in game at the America East conference tournament.

The Black Bears' upcoming schedule features contests among the schools occupying the bottom of the America East standings. UMaine is in a three-way tie for sixth-place with New Hampshire and Maryland-Baltimore County while Binghamton has dropped a large anchor on the ninth spot.

First up is New Hampshire Wednesday night in Durham. Binghamton visits Orono Saturday night before the Black Bears make a trip to UMBC on Feb. 4.

A good showing would give UMaine some tie-breaker breathing room at the end of February.

Reeling in the east

Stony Brook outslugged the Black Bears 58-52 Saturday, pushing UMaine to its fifth consecutive loss, three of them in Orono.

Since beginning the America East season at 2-0, the Black Bears have fallen into a sixth-place tie with New Hampshire and Maryland-Baltimore County. UMaine (8-10, 2-5) travels to Durham, N.H., Wednesday looking to snap the skid.

Senior guard Gerald McLemore sat out the second half of Saturday's loss to the first-place Seawolves (no injury reported). Junior frontcourter Mike Allison was injured early in the contest, briefly returned, and then wasn't able to continue.

Stony Brook and Boston University sit atop the AE standings at 6-1 with Vermont (6-2) a half-game back.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Seawolves riding a wave

Saturday's game at The Pit matches two teams headed in opposite directions.

Stony Brook has won seven of eight, the only loss a six-point setback at Boston University. The Seawolves and Boston University are tied for first place in America East at 5-1.

UMaine is reeling, having lost four straight including a 14-point stunner to Hartford.

The Black Bears was blitzed by a Hartford lineup that was winless during the non-conference season. The Seawolves have veterans with big-game experience and toughness, starting with guard Bryan Dougher (13.5 points per game) and the active frontcourt tandem of Tommy Brenton (8 points, 8 rebounds) and Dallis Joyner (8 points, 7 rebounds).

After the Hartford loss, Black Bears senior Gerald McLemore lamented his team's lack of energy and a "mindset" that "dwindled" when the shots weren't falling.

Stop the bleeding

UMaine turned down an opportunity to apply a tourniquet to its three-game losing streak and, instead, opened the gash further with a double-digit loss to Hartford at the Pit Thursday night.

Once 8-5 overall and 2-0 in America East, the Black Bears have fallen to 8-9 and 2-4 and will likely spend the balance of the league season scrambling to avoid a sixth seed or worse for the conference tournament. Up next is first-place Stony Brook on Saturday.

Hartford, which went 0-12 during its non-conference slate, is now 4-14 overall, 4-2 in America East. The Hawks led by as many as 22 in the second half last night and were never threatened by the Black Bears.

Old nemesis Genesis Maciel once again torched the Black Bears.

The reserve forward dropped four 3-point bombs as the Hawks shot 51 percent from the floor.
Maciel came off the bench after a timeout late in last year's America East quarterfinal to hit the 3-pointer that lifted the sixth-seeded Hawks to the 66-63 upset of the third-seeded Black Bears.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Sikma sighting

The over 40 set will see a familiar name when the Hartford Hawks hit the floor in Orono tonight.

The Hawks' Nate Sikma, a 6-foot-6 freshman forward, is the son of former NBA all-star Jack Sikma.

Jack Sikma was a standout, most notably with the Seattle Supersonics, and was known for his uncanny and unblockable shot that he seemingly released from behind his head. He is an assistant coach with the Minnesota Timberwolves. He launched his career from tiny Illinois Wesleyan University in Bloomington, Ill.

Nate Sikma was an all-state player at Bellevue, Wash., before enrolling at Hartford. He has started 12 of 16 games, posting averages of 9 points and 4.6 rebounds per game. He's shooting 41 percent from the floor, 28 percent from range.

His brother, Luke, was a standout at Portland University.

Note: Standout Hawks point guard Andres Torres was injured from a elbow to the head by Ben Dickinson in a win at Binghamton Sunday. The feisty backcourter bounced back from the blow and tallied 16 points in the Hawks' win over UMBC Tuesday ... Hartford has won three straight over the Black Bears, including last year's upset of third-seeded UMaine in the America East quarterfinals.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Time is now

Only two weeks into the America East season and the Black Bears would appear to have arrived at a crossroads.

Three straight losses to contenders Boston University, Albany and Vermont have left UMaine at 2-3 in the league and looking to regain some of the swagger discovered during a solid non-conference schedule.

If UMaine hopes to climb back into contention for a coveted top three seed for the America East tournament, it's likely the hike begins this week with home games against Hartford (Thursday) and league-leading Stony Brook (Saturday).

Fortunes seemingly change overnight. The Black Bears can get back into the hunt without packing a bag.