The Black Bears wrap up their two-game week hosting the Albany Great Danes at Memorial Gymnasium on Saturday afternoon. Maine attempts to avenge its last game against Albany in the 2013 America East Tournament as the Great Danes edged Maine, 50-49 and bounced the Black Bears from playoff contention. Saturday's game is slated for 2 p.m.
LAST TIME OUT
Garet Beal (Beal's Island, Maine) led Maine with nine points but Vermont's stingy defense held the Black Bears in check as the Catamounts defeated the Black Bears 83-46 at the Cross Insurance Center on Thursday night. With the loss Maine drops to 3-13 overall and 1-3 in America East play while Vermont improved to 9-8 overall and 3-0 in conference.
The Catamounts shot 57 percent form the field and out rebounded the Black Bears 38-20.
Ethan O'Day was one of three Vermont players to tally double-digit point totals as all but one player who entered the game scored points.
SCOUTING THE GREAT DANES
The Great Danes enter this week with an 8-9 record while they are 2-2 in America East play. While they went undefeated against Hartford and UMBC, they suffered a 30-point loss to Vermont, losing 68-38 and suffered an overtime loss to UMass-Lowell earlier in the week. Maine will attempt to force the Great Danes to 0-for-3 on its road trip.
Peter Hooley, who averages 15.1, paces Albany, while both Sam Rowley and DJ Evans also average double-figure points with 12.5 and 11.4 marks, respectively. Rowley is the primary rebounder for the team; averaging 6.6 boards per contest while Hooley and Evans dish out the ball at a near-even pace with 41 assists and 46 assists, respectively.
Great Danes average 64.8 points per game while allowing opponents just over that, at 66.1 points per contest.
SERIES HISTORY WITH ALBANY
These two teams get ready for the 16th meeting between these two squads. Albany leads 13-12 in the series while having won six of the last 10 games. The Black Bears snapped a four-game losing skid against the Great Danes on Feb. 9, 2013 in Orono, Maine, defeating Albany, 66-52.
Both Maine's home and away numbers have been mixed in its last 10 games as the squad is 2-2 at home and 2-3 on the road, and 0-1 at a neutral site.
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, before Thursday's clunker against Vermont, the Black Bears have done well to get off to strong starts in three of the four conference games, taking leads to halftime. However the squad only has a 1-3 record to show for it. The Black Bears outscored opponents in those 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 those 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.
• Temper Turnovers: To begin the year the Black Bears have been one of the better possession teams in the conference but since hitting conference play the Black Bears have averaged 18.2 turnovers per contest through four games and its last two games has reached the 20+ turnover plateau in both games. The turnover numbers in themselves haven't been the jolting part but opponents turnovers in the last three games have drastically dropped. Against UMBC the Black Bears only forced four giveaways, while against Hartford they only took the ball away nine times. While the Black Bears forced 19 against Vermont, the advantage still was in the Catamounts favor. If Maine is to find success they need to win the turnover battle.
• Did We Mention Rebounding Before?: While its no secret Maine has struggled to come away with boards, the Black Bears need to refocus as the rebound margin has begun to creep back up to double-digits. Against Binghamton the Black Bears won the rebounding battle for the first time against a division I opponent, taking down 47 to 43 for the Bearcats. However in its last three games they've been outrebounded all three times, while in its most recent game against Vermont, they faced their biggest rebounding deficit since its game against Quinnipiac on Nov. 25 (-31) as the Catamounts had a +18 margin in its game on Thursday. Maine had previously had four straight games of single digit deficits until their game against Vermont. The Black Bears will need to refocus in order to get those numbers back in the right direction.
CLOSING IN ON 500
While junior Xavier Pollard reached the 500 point plateau earlier this year Zarko Valjarevic, Maine's deadliest 3-point shooter, is just 95 away from 500 career points with 10 games remaining. Valjarevic currently averages 12.9 points per game so if he stays healthy he has a shot to hit that mark this year. So far he has scored a career-high 207 points, after registering 185 his sophomore season.
The Black Bears have been one of the better possession teams in the conference for most of the year but in its last three games in conference the Black Bears have begun to turn the ball over at an alarming rate. In its last three contests the Black Bears have turned it over 57 times, an average of 19 giveaways. While that number isn't necessarily scary, they've only forced 32 turnovers, which averages out to 10.6 through those three games. The Black Bears need to reverse that trend if they want to contend in America East.
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 3-3 in day games while they are 0-9 when playing games at 5 p.m. or later. The Black Bears only wins this year have come in games before 5 p.m.