The University of Maine men’s basketball team has shown glimpses this season that it may have what it takes to make a serious bid for the America East championship.
The most recent example of the Black Bears’ talent, balance and depth came during Saturday afternoon’s resounding 77-51 victory over a Binghamton University squad that was previously unbeaten in league play.
Coach Ted Woodward’s UMaine team improved to 10-7, 4-1 in America East, with a thorough undressing of the Bearcats.
“I hope our guys don’t get into a situation where we ever get satisfied, that we always want more,” Woodward said. “That’s the only way you can possibly be. They’ve been doing a great job with that.”
UMaine hopes to continue its strong play Tuesday night when it travels to Vermont (12-4, 3-1 AE) for a critical America East showdown at Patrick Gym in Burlington.
On Saturday, the Bears gave their largest crowd of the season (2,601) plenty to cheer about. One of the dynamics that was most visible was UMaine’s ability to keep going to the bench.
All 12 of UMaine’s active players (sophomore Jon McAllian of Bangor is still recovering from a facial injury) saw action against Binghamton. Of those, 11 logged at least 13 minutes.
Only junior guard Gerald McLemore played more than 23 minutes. The starting unit, which also included senior co-captains Troy Barnies of Auburn and Sean McNally of Gardiner, along with junior Raheem Singleton and sophomore Murphy Burnatowski, averaged only 22.4 minutes.
“Everyone contributed that went in the game,” said Barnies, who scored 21 points in the win and continues to be the Bears’ emotional leader. “We went all the way down to the end of our bench (Saturday), so it was kind of great to see everyone excited and actually smile during the game.”
UMaine is able to bring effective players off the bench at every position. Freshman Alasdair Fraser has been a key contributor alternating with McNally, senior Terrance Mitchell has been interchangeable at shooting guard with McLemore and senior Malachi Peay steps in with energy when Burnatowski needs a blow.
Junior Andrew Rogers has been solid running the point in tandem with Singleton, while lanky sophomore Mike Allison, who is working his way back from a calf injury, can be a force at power forward if Barnies comes out for a break.
In Saturday’s game, 11 of the 12 Bears who got into the game scored at least a basket. UMaine spread out 18 assists among nine players.
“We have to have everybody on the same page every night. That’s the only way you can be successful,” Woodward said.
Peay, Mitchell and Allison were instrumental in sparking UMaine’s 29-8 scoring run during the first half on Saturday.
Allison played only 13 minutes in the contest, but made a significant impact. He scored five points to key a 9-0 spurt during the aforementioned run and finished with seven points, five rebounds and a blocked shot.
“We helped each other other out, played as hard as we could for the minutes that we were in there, and we really had a deep basketball team that was able to continue to apply pressure on the glass, and certainly the defensive end, all game and I thought we did a good job sharing the basketball,” Woodward summarized.
UMaine likely will need to be at the top of its game Tuesday night against a talented Vermont squad.
“We know playing at Vermont is tough, not a lot of people win there,” McLemore said. “(Saturday’s win) gives us a lot of confidence going into Vermont.”
UMaine baseball plans fundraiser
Brian Butterfield of the Toronto Blue Jays will be the featured guest when the UMaine baseball team holds “A Maine Baseball Evening” later this week.
The fundraiser will be held Saturday from 5 to 7 p.m. at the home of Brewer mayor and Black Bear alumnus Joe Ferris and Carol Depew.
“It’s a good way to meet some of the people (in the program),” said UMaine assistant coach Jason Spaulding. “Joe was kind enough to offer up his house.”
Butterfield, a Bangor native and 1980 UMaine graduate, is the son of the late Jack Butterfield, who guided the program from 1957-74. He is preparing for his 15th season coaching in the major leagues and his 10th with the Blue Jays. He has most recently served as the third base coach and infield instructor.
Butterfield showed off his Maine hospitality last season when Bruce Spaulding, Jason’s father, spoke to the Toronto coach at a Red Sox-Blue Jays game in Boston.
“He brought my dad right into the locker room at Fenway Park,” said Jason Spaulding, whose father was wearing a UMaine baseball cap.
Those who wish to attend Saturday’s event are asked to make a $50 donation to the UMaine baseball program. Refreshments will be provided by the Muddy Rudder Restaurant in Brewer.
For more information, contact Jason Spaulding at 581-1098.