For the last two seasons, the Husson University men looked at their own Paul Bunyan Tournament as a chance to turn things around after the Eagles were effectively grounded coming out of the starting gate.
This year, the Eagles are flying fairly high with a 2-2 record and hope that the 42nd annual tourney’s home cooking will go down a lot more smoothly this year.
“We’re pleased with our level of play so far, but we’re not satisfied. We continue to tweak things we haven’t done well, like rebounding,” said head coach Warren Caruso. “Rebounding has been an Achilles heal for us in our two losses and we need to keep trying to find ways to get more easy buckets.”
The Eagles, who are coming off a five-point road win over Saint Joseph’s College Tuesday night, will play host for a pair of games, the first of which will be against the University of Maine-Fort Kent Friday at 8 p.m.
The early game between Bates College (3-1) and the University of Maine-Machias (3-2) tips the tournament off at 6 p.m. Friday. On Saturday, a 1 p.m. consolation game will precede the 3 p.m. championship game.
Sophomore Josh Jones from Erskine Academy in South China has made an immediate impact with the Eagles by switching the inside game from a weakness to a strength.
The 6-foot-4 forward from Jefferson is leading the team with 11.8 rebounds per game and is the third-leading scorer at 14.5 points per game.
“It’s a very talented team and we’re excited to compete against [UMFK]. They play inside and out and they should give us a challenge, as balanced as they are,” said Warren Caruso.
Senior captains Matt MacKenzie and Brock Bradford are the team’s top two scorers.
MacKenzie, a 6-5 forward from Warren, is averaging 20.5 points and 5.5 rebounds a game. Bradford (18.5 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 3.8 assists) has been even more dangerous this year now that he’s not being counted on as much to help inside with rebounding.
Also providing an influx of production from the new faces in the starting lineup are senior guard C.J. Hodges (7.0 ppg, 4.0 rpg) and junior forward Jay Uhrin (6.5 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 2.3 steals) of Winterport.
The Eagles are averaging 73.2 points and 34.2 rebounds while also turning the ball over just 13.5 times per game.
The UMFK Bengals, who started off 3-3 heading into a road game against the University of New Brunswick-Fredericton, have 13 players representing six states and five countries.
The Bengals are led by sophomore guard Jeremy Thomas (16.0 ppg, 2.2 apg, 3.2 steals), Manny Odugbela (15.5 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 2.5 apg), Illija Kalajdzic (12.0 ppg, 8.7 rpg), and Alan Campbell (8.2 ppg, 8.0 rpg).
The Bates Bobcats have a pronounced local flavor with No. 2 scorer and guard Chris Wilson (13.8 ppg) hailing from Brewer and key forward Alex Gallant (8.5 ppg, 5.5 rpg) coming from Bangor High. Brian Ellis (18.0 ppg, 9.0 rpg) paces the team.
The UMM Clippers are led by Zach Armstrong (14.8 ppg, 4.2 rpg), a sophomore from Waldoboro, Clifford McDonald (14.2 ppg, 9.0 rpg), and Brian Alexander (5.0 rpg, 3.8 apg, 2.6 spg).
“I think this is a great tournament with the four teams we have involved,” Caruso said. “They’re all coming in with high expectations and no one is really struggling coming in.”
UM’s Stevens, Williams all-stars
University of Maine seniors Jordan Stevens of Temple and Landis Williams have been named to the 2009 New England Football Writers Football Championship Subdivision All-Star team.
Stevens, a senior tri-captain, anchored the defensive line for the Black Bears and ranked in the top five of the Colonial Athletic Assocation with 10 sacks, three forced fumbles and 11½ tackles for a loss.
Williams, a senior wide receiver, was led the CAA in receptions with 71, receptions per game (7.1) and receiving yards per game (79.8). He was second in the league with nine touchdown catches.
Albany, B.U. AE track favorites
The University at Albany men and Boston University women have been picked as the favorites to win America East titles in men’s and women’s indoor track and field, respectively.
The University of Maine women, meanwhile, were chosen fourth and the men sixth in the AE head coaches’ preseason poll announced Wednesday.
Albany garnered 64 points and all eight possible first place votes as a unanimous men’s favorite while B.U. got six first place votes and 62 total points. The Maine women received 35 points and the men 26.
Top individual stars for both Maine teams include 2009 AE Indoor Most Outstanding Rookie Riley Masters of Bangor, pole vaulters Mark Liimakka of Old Town and James Berry of Orono, and AE and New England cross-country champ Corey Conner and 2008 AE Outdoor Outstanding Performer Allyson Howatt.