Men's Basketball Wraps-Up Road Trip Against UMBC Saturday
The Black Bears look to salvage a two-game road trip as the squad faces the UMBC Retrievers in Baltimore, Md., Saturday afternoon. The game is part of a double header that will feature a UMBC women's basketball game at 1 p.m. while the men will conclude the event with a 3:30 p.m. showdown with Maine.
LAST TIME OUT
The Hartford Hawks used a 25-10 run late in the second half to help secure its first conference win, defeating the Maine men's basketball team, 80-65, at the Chase Family Arena, Thursday night. The Black Bears fall to 3-11 overall and 1-1 in conference while the Hawks improve to 7-10 and 1-1 in America East play.
With nine minutes remaining in the game the Black Bears used free throws from Shaun Lawton to tie things at 55-55. From that point on Hartford took control, scoring 25 points to lead them to a victory.
Xavier Pollard spurred the Maine offense recording a new career high in points, with 26, shooting 11-of-18 from the field and 3-of-4 from the stripe. Valjarevic was the only other Black Bear to hit double-digit points as he finished the game with 11.
Mark Nwakamma rebounded from a very quiet first half to finish the game with 18 points as he scored 16 in the second frame, while Yolonzo Moore II was second in scoring with 11 points.
Christian Ejiga was Maine's most effective presence in the paint coming down with a career-high 10 rebounds while Nwakamma completed his double-double bid collecting 10 rebounds of his own.
Maine's second half defense faltered allowing the Hawks to rebound from a cold-shooting first half to finish the game shooting 48 percent, including a 70 percent second half. Maine couldn't keep pace as it shot 45 percent form the field in the second frame, finishing hitting 46 percent of chances.
The Black Bears will attempt to split its two-game road swing when it takes on UMBC in Baltimore, Md., on Saturday. That game is slated for 3:30 p.m.
Like the Black Bears, the Retrievers enter the week having already played an early week game, falling to Albany on Tuesday night, in a double-OT affair, 73-72. It was UMBC's second conference game and dropped the team to 4-11 overall and 0-2 in America East play.
Freshman guard Rodney Elliot, who shared the weekly America East awards with Dimitry Akanda-Coronel this past week, has been all-the-rage at UMBC, as the first year player paces the Retrievers with 14 points per game and 3.7 assists per game. Chase Plummer and Bryan Harris are the only other Retrievers to average double-figure point totals as both average just over 10 points per contest at 10.6 and 10.5, respectively. Plummer is not only second on the points-per-game but leads the team in rebounding with six boards per contest.
The Retrievers average 69.2 points per game while they allow opponents 75.1 points per contest. They also are edged in the rebounding margin, an area the Black Bears can try and exploit. UMBC averages 37.3 boards while its opponents average 37.9.
The Black Bears currently lead the series history between the two teams 12-10 as the teams get ready for its 23rd meeting overall. Maine snapped a three-game losing skid to the Retrievers, in the team's first meeting last season as they upended UMBC 68-67, at Alfond Arena. Maine has had mixed success away from Orono, ME, as the squad has gone 6-4 when playing at the RAC. The Black Bears have also won three of the last four games in Baltimore, Md., while the Retrievers won the last meeting at the RAC.
RANKING THE BLACK BEARS (As of Jan. 6)
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.
• Shaun Lawton is now ranked 15th in the nation in steals per game with a 2.50 mark.
• Lawton is ranked 39th in the country in total steals with 30.
• Lawton is also ranked 78th in assists per game averaging 4.8.
• Zarko Valjarevic is nationally ranked in most 3-point categories:
• 3-pointers per game – 35th
• 3-point FG percentage – 32nd
• Total 3-pointers made – 52nd
• Total 3-point Attempts – 95th
• Maine is now 25th in the country in steals per game with 8.6 per contest.
• Maine is 43rd in the country in the assists per game category with 15.5.
• Black Bears are 50th in Division I basketball in total steals with 112.
America East Rankings
• Maine is the No.1 scoring offense in the conference with 77.6 points per game.
• Maine ranks third in the league in field goal percentage with a .451 mark
• Lawton is both 2nd in the AE in assists (4.8) and first in steals (2.5).
• Valjarevic is the conference's deadliest 3-point shooter ranking first in
3-pointers per game (3.00), 3-point percentage (.448) and 3-pointers made (30)
• Lawton is ranked second in the conference in both assist turnover ratio (1.61) and assists per game (4.8)
• Team Quick Hit Rankings:
• 1st in assists per game (15.5)
• 1st in assist turnover ratio (1.12)
• 1st in steals per game (8.6)
• 1st in 3-pointers per game (7.3)
• 1st in turnover margin (0.1)
• 2nd in fewest turnovers (137)
• 2nd in total steals (112)
THREE KEYS TO VICTORY
The Black Bears started their conference season off with 1-1 record and have an opportunity to come back home with a record above .500. Here is what they need to do to come away with a victory.
•Play a full 40 minutes: The Black Bears appeared to be in good shape against Hartford last game holding Mark Nkwamma to just one bucket in the first half and coming into halftime with a one point lead. However the second half was much different than the first as they allowed Hartford to shoot 70 percent in the final frame including a 25-10 run in the game's final nine minutes, as the Hawks won, 80-65 victory. Maine needs to find away to maintain its strong defense in the second half of games in order to close out victories.
• Rebound From Poor Rebounding: The Black Bears have had trouble in the paint so far this season. The team went from having strength in its bigs last year, to strength in the guard position. Early in the year the squad's forwards struggled, and it showed in the rebounding numbers. The Black Bears have been outrebounded in all but two games this season but in its last win against Binghamton, they won the rebounding battle. Maine seems to be getting better in the boards category as their rebounding margin has shrunk in the past five games dropping from mid-double-digit figures to now just under 10 at -9.4 per contest. That will need to continue to decrease if the Black Bears want to challenge for a conference crown.
• Maintain Hot Shooting: The Black Bears shooting and offense has been its strength in 2013-14. Maine shot 46 percent against the Hawks last game and it was the fifth time in six games that the team has managed above 45 percent in the contest. Since its game against UConn on Dec. 6, the Black Bears have averaged 47 percent from the field. Those numbers will need remain strong while the defense continues to come along on this young roster.
CONFERENCE DEBUT SUCCESS
The Black Bears opened up conference play last weekend and for the fourth-consecutive year opened with a victory, defeating Binghamton 82-66. The Black Bears, under Woodward are now .500 when it comes to America East debuts, going 5-5 but the squad's recent success has it winning it's last for conference openers.
Maine has been one of the most competitive teams in the conference for the last four years. When breaking down the numbers the Black Bears are one of only three teams currently in the America East conference to have .500-or-better winning percentage in conference games. Coming into this season, Maine has gone 32-32 in that span. The only teams to best the Black Bears in that category are Stony Brook and Vermont, which were both 49-15. Recently departed Boston University was also in that conversation with a 46-18 mark. The Black Bears have gotten off to a 1-0 start in America East play in 2013-14.
TWICE IS NICE!
Dimitry Akanda-Coronel for the second time in as many weeks, was named the America East Player of the Week. In the two games he played he averaged 19 points and eight rebounds while helping the Black Bears go 1-1 and nearly take the Dr. Pepper Classic tournament crown. Against Binghamton the sophomore guard secured the first double-double of his career scoring 14 points and coming down with 10 boards. In the last four games he's averaged 17 points per contest. He had started the season off scoring double-figure points in his first seven games but, before the Dr. Pepper Classic, had been mired in a slump in which he hadn't reached double-digit point totals.
If Zarko Valjarevic were a player in the popular video game NBA Jam, video game enthusiasts would hear the popular call "FROM DOWNTOWN!" an awful lot. The junior from Serbia has made his living from beyond the arc for his career and this season is no different. Coming into the week he was nationally ranked in just about every 3-pointer category including 32nd in three-point field goal percentage and 35th in three-pointers per game. He is also ranked just outside of the top-50 players in the country in total made three-pointers. In the conference he ranks first in all three of those categories.
LAWTON ORDER LARCENY
Sophomore Shaun Lawton is making a name for himself for his deft thieving nature. Lawton made his way up to 15th in the country (coming into the week) in steals per game and currently averages 2.5 per contest, while he's ranked 39th in the country in total steals. Meanwhile he's also been an assists leader as well ranking 78th in the country in assists. The Harlem, N.Y., native not only is ranked nationally but in the conference is ranked first in both steals categories and is second in assists per game.
The Black Bears haven't had many double-doubles this year but Dimitry Akanda-Coronel put another one on the board against Binghamton last Sunday. Akanda-Coronel scored 14 points and added 10 rebounds for his first and the team's second double-double of the season. Xavier Pollard had the first as he tallied 18 points and 11 rebounds in the team's second meeting against NJIT earlier in the year. It was the first double-double since last season when Pollard scored 15 points and 12 assists vs. Siena (11/25/12), while it's the last points/rebound double-double since Troy Barnies accomplished the feat against New Hampshire on Jan. 25, 2011. This was Pollard's second career double-double.
FIRST HALF DOMINANCE
The Black Bears this season have struggled with point's margin in the first halves of games but in its most recent win against Binghamton the Black Bears recorded its largest points margin against a Division I team this season. Maine outscored the Bearcats, 49-28 for its largest first-half lead since its game against Fisher on Nov. 10.
FIRST HALF DEFENSE
The Black Bears have excelled in the last two games during the opening frame. In both the game against Binghamton and the contest against Hartford, the Black Bears allowed its lowest and second lowest point totals against a Division I opponent so far this year. They limited Binghamton to 28 points last Sunday while holding the Hawks to 30 on Thursday night. Christian Ejiga had a strong first half against Hartford as well holding America East standout Mark Nwkamma to just one bucket, on 11 shots.
In its last victory against Binghamton, the Black Bears won the rebounding battle for the first time since its victory over NAIA opponent, Fisher on Nov. 10. The Black Bears have been starved for rebounds this year but in its last four games have done a much better job of coming away with the basketball. It culminated in a strong performance against the Bearcats on Sunday when Maine took away 47 boards to Binghamton's 43 while against Hartford, the Black Bears were outrebounded by just five.
In its last victory against the Bearcats the Black Bears opened the conference season 1-0 and it was in large part due to their rebounding improvements. In that game Maine had two players record double-figure rebounding totals at Dmitry Akanda-Coronel and Till Gloger came away with 10 boards apiece. That's the first time that has happened since last season, also against the Bearcats, when both Alasdair Fraser and Mike Allison tallied 11 apiece, on Feb. 16, 2013.
HARD DAYS NIGHT
In what can be filed under the "call it a coincidence" file, the Black Bears' wins have only come in what are classified as day games, meaning any game that is scheduled before the 5 p.m. Maine is currently 3-2 in day games while they are 0-9 when playing games at 5 p.m. or later. We'll see if that trend continues when Maine takes on UMBC at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday.