The Maine Black Bears get ready for a three-game home stand beginning on Jan. 16, as the team takes on Vermont, followed by Albany on Jan. 18 and UMass-Lowell on Jan. 23. Both the game against the Catamounts and Riverhawks will be played at the Cross Insurance Center but Maine's contest against the Great Danes will be played at Memorial Gym.
LAST TIME OUT
Junior guard, Zarko Valjarevic led the Maine offense with 24 points, including 6-of-8 from beyond the arc but the Black Bears couldn't overcome 20 turnovers, falling to UMBC, 79-76 at the RAC on Saturday evening. With the loss Maine now drops to 3-12 and 1-2 in conference while UMBC improves to 5-11 and 1-2 in America East play.
Valjarevic used a scorching first half where he hit 6-of-8 from beyond the arc and scored 19 of his 24 points in the first frame, however Maine committed 20 giveaways while only forcing the Retrievers to give it up four times in the contest. The Retrievers ended up scoring 32 points off of those turnovers which was the difference.
UMBC had two players lead in offense as Bryan Harris and Chase Plummer both had 16 points apiece. Malik Garner was second on that list, chipping in 14.
Maine once again came up on the short end of the stick as far as rebounds is concerned as the Retrievers took down 42 to the Black Bears' 38.
Vermont enters the contest at an even, 8-8 overall record but a perfect 2-0 mark against its conference foes. The Catamounts defeated newcomer, UMass-Lowell, 62-48 on Dec. 18, and most recently throttled Albany, 68-38 in Burlington, Vt., on Jan. 11.
The Catamounts are paced by a pair of players who both average 14 points per game. Clancy Rugg and Sandro Carissimo average 14.9 and 14.0 points per game, respectively. The pair are the only players on the roster that average double-digit point totals.
While Rugg and Carrisimo take care of the scoring, Brian Voelkel handles the rebounds, averaging over eight boards a contest with an 8.1 mark.
The Catamounts rely on a stingy defense that only gives up, on average, 66.6 points per game while the team scores 69.2. It holds opponents to just .419 shooting from the field and .347 from beyond the arc.
This meeting will be the 128th meeting between these two teams as Maine holds the edge 70-57, all-time.
The Catamounts have had their way in its last 10 games however going 8-2 against the Black Bears. It hasn't mattered home or away as the Catamounts are 3-1 both on the road and at home while they are a perfect 2-0 at a neutral site in its last 10 versus the Black Bears.
Maine did win its last home contest against Vermont in 2012-13 defeating the Catamounts 71-68 at Alfond Arena on Jan. 22, 2013.
RANKING THE BLACK BEARS (As of Jan. 13 )
• Shaun Lawton is now ranked 30th in the nation in steals per game with a 2.29 mark.
• Lawton is ranked 53rd in the country in total steals with 32.
• Lawton is also ranked 95th in assists per game averaging 4.5.
• Zarko Valjarevic is nationally ranked in most 3-point categories:
• 3-pointers per game – 26th
• 3-point FG percentage – 18th
• Total 3-pointers made – 39th
• Maine is now 33rd in the country in steals per game with 8.1 per contest.
• Maine is 60th in the country in the assists per game category with 14.9.
• Black Bears are 63rd in Division I basketball in total steals with 122.
America East Rankings
• Maine is the No.1 scoring offense in the conference with 76.7 points per game.
• Maine ranks third in the league in field goal percentage with a .457 mark
• Lawton is both 2nd in the AE in assists (4.5) and first in steals (2.2).
• Valjarevic is the conference's deadliest 3-point shooter ranking first in
3-pointers per game, 3-point percentage and 3-pointers made.
• Lawton is ranked second in assist turnover ratio (1.61) and assists per game (4.5)
• Team Quick Hit Rankings:
• 1st in assists per game (14.9)
• 1st in assist turnover ratio (1.03)
• 1st in 3-pointers per game (7.2)
• 2nd in steals per game (8.1)
• 2nd in total steals (122)
• 3rd 3-point field goal percentage (.370)
• 3rd in field goal percentage (.457)
THREE KEYS TO VICTORY
•Play a full 40 minutes: So far in conference play the Black Bears have done well to get off to strong starts in all three conference games, taking leads to halftime three-straight times, however only have a 1-2 record to show for it. The Black Bears have outscored opponents in the three America East games, 120-94, which leads to a 40-37 per first half average between the Black Bears and its opponents. That number shoots up in the second half as that margin swings to the opponent as conference foes have outscored Maine 131-103 in three games. Likewise opponents shooting percentages have been held to an average of 40 percent through the first frame in three games while that percentage jumps up to 50 percent in the second frame. Maine needs to maintain consistency headed into that second half in order to record more wins.
• Rebound Starved: The Black Bears have had trouble in the paint so far this season. 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 -9.0 per contest. That will need to continue to decrease if the Black Bears want to challenge for a conference crown. In its last
two conference games against Hartford and UMBC Maine was only outrebounded by four and three, respectively.
• Maintain Hot Shooting: The Black Bears shooting and offense has been its strength in 2013-14. The Black Bears, so far in its conference season have shot an average of 48 percent in three contests. Meanwhile, since its game against UConn on Dec. 6, the Black Bears have averaged 47 percent from the field. Those numbers will need to remain strong while the defense continues to come along on this young roster.
LONG RANGE THREAT
Zarko Valjarevic continues to rank prominently on the national stage when it comes to 3-pointers. 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 18th in three-point field goal percentage and 26 in three-pointers per game. He is also ranked 39th in the country in total made three-pointers. In the conference he ranks first in all three of those categories.
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.
LAWTON ORDER LARCENY
Sophomore Shaun Lawton is making a name for himself for his deft thieving nature. Lawton made his way up to 30th in the country in steals per game and currently averages 2.2 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.