The Maine men's basketball team attempts to record its first two-game winning streak this weekend when the team hosts UMBC at the Cross Insurance Center on Saturday afternoon. The Black Bears look to avenge a 79-76 loss to the Retrievers earlier in the year in Baltimore, Md. The game is slated for 2 p.m.
LAST TIME OUT
The Black Bears were sparked by Xavier Pollard's 20 points as the Maine men's basketball team snapped a six-game losing streak, defeating the New Hampshire Wildcats, 68-60, in Durham, N.H., Wednesday night. With the win the Black Bears improved to 4-16 overall and 2-6 in conference while UNH dropped to 5-16 and 3-5 overall.
Pollard was one of three Black Bears to record double-figure point totals as he shot 7-of-16 from the field and took down five rebounds. Meanwhile the Black Bears were also bolstered by the offensive additions of Till Gloger (10 pts) and Ethan Mackey (12 pts).
Meanwhile the dangerous Chris Pelcher was held in check for the Wildcats scoring just 13 points and taking down nine rebounds as he paced the UNH offense.
Maine won the rebounding battle for just the third time this season taking down 39 rebounds to the Wildcats' 38, while the team shot a 41 percent for the game, edging UNH who shot 40 percent.
The Retrievers haven't fared too well since their win against the Black Bears on Jan. 11. UMBC has gone 2-4 since the first meeting between these two squads. However the team is on a two-game winning streak entering this weekend. The Retrievers come to the Cross Center with a 7-14 overall record and a 3-5 conference mark.
UMBC has been a much different team depending on venue. At home the Retrievers are 6-3 overall, while they are 1-11 when away from the friendly confines of the Retriever Athletic Center. A bright spot for UMBC is that they just got its first road win of the season against Binghamton on Jan. 29.
The Retrievers have three players who currently average double-figure points as freshman point guard, Rodney Elliot, has maintained his torrid first-year pace, averaging 13.9 points per contest. Meanwhile both Bryan Harris and Chase Plummer both average 11.0 points per game to round out the top-points leaders.
The big man, Devarick Houston paces the team in rebounds as he takes down 5.6 boards per game, while Elliot averages 3.1 helpers per game.
The Retrievers have averaged 66.7 points per game while allowing 73.0 for their opponents. Meanwhile the team maintains a +0.5 turnover margin (14.9-15.3) while they trail in the rebounding margin, -2.0 (35.6-37.6).
Maine attempts to avenge an early season, three-point loss to the Retrievers on Jan. 11. The Black Bears fell to UMBC 79-76 after taking a four-point lead into halftime. Zarko Vajarevic had a hot-shooting first half hitting 5-of-6 from three-point land and accruing 19 points in the first frame. He finished the day with 24 points.
The Black Bears currently lead the series history between the two teams, 12-11 as the teams get ready for its 24th 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. The Black Bears hold a 7-4 record all time against UMBC at home while they've won the last two home contests against the Retrievers. Ted Woodward has been edged in his career vs. UMBC as he maintains a 9-11 record against his America East foe.
RANKING THE BLACK BEARS (As of Jan. 26)
• Shaun Lawton is now ranked 46th in the nation in steals per game with a 2.00 mark.
• Lawton is ranked 72nd in the country in total steals with 36.
• Lawton is also ranked 105th in assists per game averaging 4.4.
• Zarko Valjarevic is nationally ranked in most 3-point categories:
• 3-pointers per game – 71st (2.53)
• 3-point FG percentage – 27th (43.6)
• Total 3-pointers made – 80th (48)
• Maine is now 42nd in the country in steals per game with 7.8 per contest.
• Maine is 64th in the country in the assists per game category with 14.6.
• Black Bears are 62nd in Division I basketball in total steals with 149.
America East Rankings
• Maine is the No. 2 in scoring offense in the conference with 73.5 points per game.
• Lawton is both 2nd in the AE in assists per game (4.6) and first in steals per contest (2.0).
• Valjarevic is the conference's deadliest 3-point shooter ranking second in 3-pointers per game, 3-point percentage and 3-pointers made.
Team Quick Hit Rankings:
• 1st in assists per game (14.6)
• 1st in total assists (278)
• 2nd in steals per game (7.8)
• 2nd in total steals (149)
• 3rd 3-point field goals per game (6.6)
• 3rd in 3-pointers per game (6.6)
• 3rd in assist turnover ratio (0.97)
THREE KEYS TO VICTORY
• 40 Minutes of Basketball: The last time these two teams met the Black Bears squandered a 40-36, first half lead, getting edged 43-36 in the final frame to fall 79-76 to the UMBC. That game has been a microcosm of the America East season as the Black Bears have played particularly well in conference play when it comes to the opening frame, outscoring teams 267-264 in the first half while getting outscored 342-271 in the second half. The Black Bears need to find some consistency from half-to-half in order to avoid repeating the same fate against the Retrievers.
• Key Players Need to Be Key: The Black Bears have relied heavily on certain players this year. Junior guard Xavier Pollard has lived up to his billing as one of the top-offensive threats in America East as he is second in the conference in scoring (15.5 pts), one tenth of a point off Jameel Warney's pace at Stony Brook. However the Black Bears need others to chip. Zarko Valjarevic has struggled in his last five games, scoring just 14 points combined. The Black Bears will need his long-range threat against UMBC in order to challenge for the win. Luckily Valjarevic's last big point output came against the Retrievers on Jan. 11 when he dropped 24 on UMBC.
• 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 four 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 -4.4 in its eight conference games to this point. Rebounding will play a key role against UMBC as the Black Bears weren't far off the Retrievers pace last time out, getting outmuscled to the tune of three boards (42-39).
Xavier Pollard continues to be the key ingredient in the Black Bears' second ranked offensive attack. Pollard currently leads the team in points per game with 15.5 while he is currently second in the league in points per game, just one tenth of a point behind Jameel Warney of Stony Brook. Pollard has scored 20-or-more points four times this year and has hit double-figure points in five-straight contests. He also helped in the rebounding efforts of team as he's tied with Ethan Mackey, averaging 4.4 rebounds per contest.