The Black Bears take to the road for their final game before Christmas as the team will take on the 9-2 Providence Friars on Dec. 21 at the Dunkin Donuts Center, in Providence, R.I. Maine attempts to upset the Friars as the game is slated for 2 p.m.
LAST TIME OUT
The Black Bears were able to play one of its two scheduled contests last weekend as they fell to Army 90-80 on Friday, Dec. 13 while a winter storm forced Maine to postpone its contest with Maine Presque-Isle which was originally scheduled for Dec 15.
In its game against Army, Xavier Pollard paced the Maine offense once again but Maine lost its seventh-straight contest as the Black Bears fell to Army 90-80 at the Cross Insurance Center. Maine fell to 1-8 while Army improved to 3-6.
Pollard was one point shy of his second-consecutive 20-point game as he shot 8-of-12 and 3-of-5 from the stripe. Reid Knight and Garet Beal chipped in 11 points apiece in the losing effort.
Wilson led the Black Knights with 24 points while Kevin Ferguson was the game's most accurate shooter, shooting 7-of-7 and 1-of-2 from beyond the arc for 15 points.
Maine shot 50 percent for the game, which is the highest it's shot since its last win against Fisher.
Army won the rebounding battle 37-33 while Maine held the edge in steals, 8-6.
Lawton continued his torrid steals pace as he recorded another three steals.
SCOUTING THE FRIARS
Providence prepares for its second game of the week after dispatching Ivy League foe, Yale, 76-74, at the Dunkin Donuts Center on Dec. 17.
The Friars pose a significant test for the Black Bears as they have the second-best record of any non-conference opponent that the Black Bears scheduled this season, with a 9-2 mark. The only better record is that of Connecticut which has an undefeated, 9-0 mark.
The Friars started out the season with a six-game winning streak before suffering its first loss of the season, falling to Maryland 56-52. The squad got back on track having won three of its last four contests, dispatching Fairfield (78-69), Rhode Island (50-49) and Yale (76-74) while its only loss came against Kentucky (79-65).
Bryce Cotton paces the Friars, as he averages 18.8 points per game, while three other Friars average double-figure point totals, as Tyler Harris (13.4), Henton LaDontae (12.5) and Kadeem Batts (12.1) round out the top-four.
LaDontae and Batts patrol the glass for Providence as they both average just over seven rebounds per contest.
The Friars have limited opponents to 63.1 points per game and have outrebounded their foes by 4.5 boards per game, on average.
SERIES HISTORY VS FRIARS
Providence holds a distinct advantage in the series history holding a 10-1 edge over the Black Bears.
The last meeting came on Nov. 22, 2008 when the Black Bears fell to the Friars 83-62, in Providence R.I.
Maine's only win came on Nov. 21, 2001 as the Black Bears upset the Friars, 80-71, also in Providence R.I.
The series began in Nov. 1978 and the inaugural game was a thrilling one, as the Friars upended the Black Bears 75-73 in overtime, in Providence, R.I. on Nov. 25, 1978.
The Black Bears have never faced the Friars at home as all 11 contests have been played at Providence.
RANKING THE BLACK BEARS
While the Black Bears have struggled against a tough non-conference slate so far, Maine does rank fairly highly in many categories, in both the NCAA and the America East conference.
NCAA Rankings (as of Dec. 18)
• Shaun Lawton is now ranked 29th in the nation in steals per game with 2.38, was
• Zarko Valjarevic is tied for 38th in the country in made 3-pointers per averaging 2.89 per contest.
• Maine is now 44th in the country in steals per game with 8.2 per contest.
America East Rankings (as of Dec. 18)
• Maine is the No. 1 scoring offense in the conference with 76.4 points per game while they rank as the league's ninth scoring defense letting up 89.5 ppg.
• Maine ranks fifth in the league in field goal percentage with a .440 mark
• Maine ranks No.1 in assists (14.8 apg), No. 2 in steals per game (8.2), second in turnover margin (+0.00) and second in assist/turnover ratio (1.1)
• Shaun Lawton is both 2nd in the AE in assists (4.8) and first in steals (2.4).
• Zarko Valjarevic is first in the conference in 3-pointers made per game with 2.9 per contest.
• Valjarevic is fourth in the conference in 3-point percentage (.419)
THREE KEYS TO VICTORY
The Black Bears have gotten off to a 1-8 start so far this year, and in order to turn it around the Black Bears need to improve in several categories. Here is how the stats suggest the Black Bears turn it around.
• Get Off To A Fast Start: The Black Bears have only once taken a lead into halftime this year and in all eight of those losses the Black Bears failed to get out of the first frame with the advantage. Opponents have outscored the Black Bears 391-329 in the first half as the Black Bears are averaging just 36.5 points scored through those nine games. Meanwhile opponents have averaged 43.4 points in that opening half. Black Bears have fared far better in the second half as the team has only been outscored 415-359, averaging 39 points in that second frame.
• Rebound From Poor Rebounding: Maine's Achilles heal so far this season has been cleaning up the glass. They've been outrebounded eight times this year and it's no surprise that all eight of those games went into the loss column. The team needs to improve its boards-margin (-9.6) in order to come away with wins. The Black Bears have been out rebounded by single-digits three of the last five games but have only managed more boards their opponents just once. In its last contest against Army the team was only out rebounded by four boards.
• Improve from the stripe: Maine also needs to improve from the free throw line as they maintain a .627 percentage from the stripe. Meanwhile opponents are hitting .730 of their free throw chances. Maine is 0-7 so far when their opponent makes more free throws.
The Black Bears are coming to the end of what has been a challenging non-conference slate and it should serve Maine moving forward. The combined record of the nine division I teams the squad faces before getting into America East play is 60-28 so far this season and has a .681 win percentage. Of those nine teams, only one has a record below .500, as last weekend's opponent Army is 3-6.
Maine's offense has been above average so far this season, averaging 76.4 points per contest and the Black Bears now have a quartet of players averaging double-digit points. Leading the charge is Xavier Pollard who averages 17.0 points per game while the former points leader, Dimitry Akanda-Coronel, who started the season with 10-or-more points through his first five games of the season, averages 14.6. Both Zarko Valjarevic and Shaun Lawton round out the top four with the junior from Belgrade, Serbia averaging 13.1 and Lawton averaging 10.8.