Even after his NAIA member University of Maine-Presque Isle Owls were thrashed 133-58 by Division I UMaine last week and kept winless, men’s basketball coach Terry Cummings saw plenty of reasons for optimism.
“In a game like this, you’re looking for small things and baby steps,” Cummings said. “I’m trying to build a program, so I’m more concerned with intensity day in and out. A lot of times, we’ll have it for four- or five-minute increments, but it won’t be consistent throughout the whole game.”
Cummings, whose Owls were also blown out by the Black Bears last year (126-50), is an UMPI alumnus now in his second season as head coach.
Last season, the Owls were 3-20 overall. This year, they’ve started out 0-6.
“I try not to emphasize so much the record, but instead emphasize the fact we’re improving and having guys develop off the bench and come in and make contributions,” said Cummings. “Games like this are good because our guys see what it is teams like Maine do to be successful.
“And it really hammers home the fact that you can’t let down.”
That point was not lost on players like fellow sophomore starters Ben Rosser and Kyle Corrigan, both of Caribou.
“We put it behind us, but at the same time we keep it in our minds. I mean, it was a great learning experience,” Corrigan explained. “They’re much quicker, they’re bigger… I mean, I was sprinting with one of their 6-7 guys and he was keeping right up. I was like ‘Wow, it’s definitely a different speed.’
“You have to maintain intensity. You might get away with it once in awhile, but not against a team like this because if you do, they make you look bad.”
Rosser said he welcomed the challenge, and despite the lopsided final score, he said he saw his team grow up and improve from one half to the other.
“This was a challenge for us, but it’s also a chance for us to kind of measure ourselves and see where we are,” Rosser said. “Sure, the competition’s tough, but at the same time we can try different combinations and build chemistry in ways we may not be able to in other games.”
Cummings cited freshman and reserve forward Jeff Morton of Pittsfield as an example.
“He came off the bench [Dec. 9] and scored seven points in seven minutes,” Cummings said. “He was like our 13th or 14th man coming into the season.”
“Now he has more confidence knowing he’s moving up the ladder, and our starters and regulars have more confidence in the bench,” Cummings explained. “The key thing is trust and that’s what we’ve been trying to build up among our players.”
Although they were the visiting team, the Owls thoroughly enjoyed the Memorial Gym atmosphere on the Orono campus.
“An atmosphere like this one, we’re not used to that. We’re used to smaller gyms and crowds,” said Rosser.
“It was nice because we have a lot of friends who go down here,” Corrigan said. “I looked up at halftime and saw about 15 kids I knew. That was pretty cool.”
Husson’s Hodges hobbled
The Husson University men have to reshuffle their lineup with the recent loss of starting guard C.J. Hodges.
Hodges, who suffered a bad knee injury Dec. 5 against Bates College in the Paul Bunyan Classic championship game, will be out at least a month.
“He had an MRI [magnetic resonance image] Monday and the doctor said it was a torn anterior cruciate ligament,” said head coach Warren Caruso. “He should be out at least four weeks and we’ll have to evaluate his progress after that.”
In his absence, senior guard Matt Cummings of Howland has moved into his spot.
“Defensively, C.J. has played extremely well and that’s going to be the hardest thing to replace,” said Caruso.
Hodges started all six games he’s played in, averaging 6.2 points, 3.2 rebounds, and 1.0 assists per game.
“The silver lining is that it occurred at a point of the season where we have options in terms of giving him a medical redshirt or have him keep playing if he can come back,” Caruso said.
Caruso will also fortify his roster as two players will be joining the team after the first semester and holiday break end. Freshman guard Eric Modica will be back from a broken pinkie finger (knuckle) and Duayne Mitchell, a junior point guard who transferred from UMPI, will be eligible to play Jan. 2.
Bengal Classic this weekend
The University of Maine-Fort Kent is gearing up to host the Bengal Holiday Classic this weekend at the UMFK Sports Center.
UMaine-Augusta and Hesser College of Manchester, N.H., will participate in the event. Play begins Friday at 6 p.m. as the Bengals take on the Hesser women. The men’s game follows at 8 p.m.
UMFK sits out Saturday, when UMA and Hesser play a doubleheader with the women’s game at 1 p.m. and the men’s contest at 3 p.m. On Sunday, the UMFK women take on UMA at noon and the men’s squads play the 2 p.m. game.