The Maine men's basketball team hits the road for a Sunday matinee against Stony Brook in Long Island, N.Y., on Sunday afternoon. The Black Bears look to snap a five game losing skid in grand style, hoping to hand the Seawolves their first loss in conference play this season. Sunday's game is slated for 2 p.m. at Pritchard Gymnasium.
LAST TIME OUT
The River Hawks' Antonio Bivens posted a game-high 25 points to help UMass-Lowell down the Black Bears, 74-62 at the Cross Insurance Center on Thursday night. With the loss the Black Bears fall to 3-15 and 1-5 in conference and UMass-Lowell improves to 5-13 and 4-3 in America East play.
Maine had four players reach double-figures, with Xavier Pollard leading the way with 15, but it wasn't enough to come away with the victory. Pollard shot 7-of-12 from the field chipping in a trey to get to 15, while Kilian Cato recorded 14 points, Till Gloger had 12 and Troy Reid-Knight had 10.
While Bivens sparked the River Hawks offense, Chad Holley (12 points) and Akeem Williams (11 points) were the two other double-digit point scorers for UMass Lowell.
The Black Bears were outrebounded once again, as the River Hawks took down 39 boards to Maine's 27. River Hawks also edged the Black Bears in shooting percentage as UMass Lowell shot 45 percent from the field while Maine shot 41 percent.
Pollard registered 11 of his 15 points in the first frame to lead the team, while Bivens totaled 10.
Both teams shot 44 percent for the half while UMass Lowell edged the Black Bears in the rebound department, 17-15.
SCOUTING THE SEA WOLVES
Stony Brook enters the contest as the top team in America East, following its last victory over Vermont, 67-64 at Pritchard Gymnasium earlier in the week. The win made the Seawolves the only undefeated team in America East play at 6-0 in conference play and 14-6 overall.
Jameel Warney is one of the conference's most prolific scorers through the season so far as he averages 15.9 points through 20 games. His efforts are aided by three others players who average double-digit points as Anthony Jackson (14.1), Carson Puriefoy (11.9) and Dave Cole (11.4) all chip in on the offensive end.
The Seawolves look to the 6-8, Warney, for its rebounds as he averages nearly 10 rebounds a game coming into the contest taking down 9 per contest.
Puriefoy takes care of dishing the basketball for Stony Brook as he averages 2.9 per contest while several players are in that ballpark pace as Warney (41), Cole (49) and Ahmad Walker (45) have over 40 assists for the year.
Warney has helped the Seawolves maintain a +6.5 rebounds margin as Stony Brook averages 38 rebounds per game while limiting opponents to 31.5 per contest.
Stony Brook has enjoyed the first halves of games through its 20 games so far this season, outscoring opponents in total points by 100 (705-605) while that deficit is cut to 25 in the second half (740-715).
SERIES HISTORY WITH STONY BROOK
The Black Bears lead the series history against the Stony Brook, holding a slim 16-13 edge against the Seawolves. Recent history hasn't been kind to the Black Bears however as Maine is currently mired in a five game losing streak, dating back to the 2011 season when Maine defeated Stony Brook on Jan. 22 in Orono, Maine, 70-59.
RANKING THE BLACK BEARS (As of Jan. 19)
• Shaun Lawton is now ranked 47th in the nation in steals per game with a 2.06 mark.
• Lawton is ranked 75th in the country in total steals with 33.
• Lawton is also ranked 87th in assists per game averaging 4.6.
• Zarko Valjarevic is nationally ranked in most 3-point categories:
• 3-pointers per game – 47th
• 3-point FG percentage – 19th
• Total 3-pointers made – 55th
• Maine is now 45th in the country in steals per game with 7.8 per contest.
• Maine is 66th in the country in the assists per game category with 14.6.
• Black Bears are 62nd in Division I basketball in total steals with 132.
America East Rankings
• Maine is the No.1 scoring offense in the conference with 74.9 points per game.
• Lawton is both 2nd in the AE in assists (4.6) and first in steals (2.3).
• Valjarevic is the conference's deadliest 3-point shooter ranking first in 3-pointers per game, 3-point percentage and 3-pointers made.
Team Quick Hit Rankings:
• 1st in assists per game (14.9)
• 1st in total assists (345)
• 1st in 3-pointers per game (7.2)
• 2nd in assist turnover ratio (0.98)
• 2nd in steals per game (7.8)
• 2nd in total steals (132)
• 3rd 3-point field goals per game (6.8)
THREE KEYS TO VICTORY
• Weather The Storm: The Black Bears enter choppy waters when they take on the Stony Brook Seawolves on Sunday afternoon. Not only are the Seawolves 14-6 overall they maintain a perfect 6-0 record in conference. The stats show a decided difference between the first half and second half of games for Stony Brook. The Seawolves, through 20 games, have outscored opponents 705-605 through the first frame but foes have narrowed that gap to 25 in the second frame, 740-715. This was evident in the second half of Stony Brook's last game against Vermont when the Catamounts shaved a 17-point deficit to just three, as the Seawolves escaped for the narrow victory. The Black Bears need to be able to weather that first half storm to put them in position to challenge in the second half.
• Key Players Need to Be Key: The Black Bears have relied heavily on certain players this year. Key cog, Xavier Pollard has remained consistent since entering conference play hitting double-digit points in all but one game through six so far, however guards Zarko Valjarevic and Dimitry Akanda-Coronel have struggled maintaining a consistent pace. Valjarevic has been ice cold recently scoring a combined five points through the three games while Akanda-Coronel has gone every other game hitting that double-figure plateau. If the Black Bears are to be successful they'll need to fire on all cylinders to keep pace with that explosive Stony Brook offense. The Seawolves currently average 73.7 points, while the Black Bears are averaging 74.2
• Paint Play: So far this season we've heard it one million times, rebounding is the key for the Black Bears. In all but one of its three wins the Black Bears owned the paint taking down more boards than its opponent. Since entering conference play, rebounding has been less of an issue as the double-digit rebounding margin that it suffered through in the first swath of games has come down to a -3.5 in its six conference games to this point. Rebounding will be magnified when they face the 6-8 presence in the paint, Jameel Warney. If the Black Bears can somehow tip rebounds into their favor, it should pay dividends on the scoreboard against a tough Stony Brook team.
CONFERENCE REBOUNDING RESULTS
The Black Bears rebounding Margin when examining conference play has shrunk dramatically. In non-conference games the Black Bears had a double-digit rebound deficit while against its America East foes the Black Bears have gotten it down to -3.5. The squad has outrebounded two teams through the six games including a win over Binghamton and a narrow loss to Albany.
DUAL THREAT THEIVES
Its no secret that Shaun Lawton for much of the season has made a living in his nature to pickpocket the basketball but it appears that points leader Xavier Pollard has given the Black Bears another thief in the lineup. Both players currently average 2.0 steals per game and have given the team its current lead in America East in robbery. The Black Bears currently average 7.7 steals per contest.
ZARKO GOES STREAKING!
In his last game against UMass Lowell the junior from Belgrade, Serbia, played in his 30th-straight contest and started his 20th-consecutive game. Valjarevic's streak is currently the longest starting and playing streak on the team. Dimitry Akanda-Coronel is second in line as he has started 12-straight contests and played in 18-straight games. Ethan Mackey is third on that list as he has played in 17-straight contests.
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 90 away from 500 career points with 8 games remaining. Valjarevic currently averages 11.8 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 212 points, after registering 185 his sophomore season and 13 in his freshman campaign.