ORONO, Maine — It’s one thing for a team to have offensive weapons. It’s another to maximize their potential.
That’s what the University of Maine men’s basketball team is trying to do this season.
Coach Ted Woodward’s Black Bears boast the league’s most potent offense and they hope to show off their skills during Saturday’s America East home opener against the University of Maryland Baltimore County.
Tipoff is scheduled for approximately 2:30 p.m. at Alfond Arena, 30 minutes after the completion of the UMaine-UMBC women’s game that starts at noon.
UMaine (7-5, 1-0 AE) leads the league, averaging 75.2 points per contest on 48 percent floor shooting. The Bears also rank first from 3-point range at 37 percent.
“I feel like we have a lot of people that can score the basketball,” said senior guard Raheem “Radio” Singleton. “We’re so well-rounded. That’s what makes everything a lot easier offensively.”
UMaine boasts three of the top seven scorers in America East. Senior guard Gerald McLemore is third with 19.7 points per game, while freshman guard Justin Edwards (16.0 ppg) and sophomore center Alasdair Fraser (14.0) also have been productive.
The Bears have other scorers, including Singleton (7.3 ppg), junior forward Mike Allison (6.2 ppg), freshman forward Kilian Cato (5.7 ppg) and senior point guard Andrew Rogers (4.5).
“We have a lot of different threats,” Fraser said. “We have a lot of guys who can score inside, a lot of guys who can score outside and people are willing to make the extra pass as opposed to forcing shots.”
The Bears said they work hard to get the best possible open shot on each possession. To do so, they must be unselfish and efficient.
UMaine is averaging a league-best 15.5 assists while setting the standard with a 1.4-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio. The Bears have committed an America East-low 11.3 turnovers per contest.
“Our parts have just fit together very well,” Woodward said. “It starts with our point-guard play. We’ve had a great assist-to-turnover ratio and we pass the ball well.”
Woodward stressed the importance of the players understanding they need to execute within the confines of the offensive structure.
“You keep things simple,” said McLemore, who is among five 3-point threats (.410) and is UMaine’s top free-throw shooter (.815). “There’s five people on the court and you get it to the person that’s open.”
That involves being sharp running half-court offensive sets and attacking in transition. The Bears continue to work hard on their rebounding.
“If we don’t have to set up an offense and we can get easy transition buckets, then that’s what we want to do,” Fraser said.
The players realize that perhaps the most critical component of scoring often is to focus on the end result for the team rather than the potential for personal gratification.
“We have a lot of guys that share the ball,” Rogers said. “Us as seniors, we want to do what’s best for us, what’s going to lead us to a win.”
Woodward said the Bears continue to search for more balance, better chemistry and greater efficiency.
“I think we’ve really worked hard on our screening angles and coming off screens,” he said. “We have a big emphasis to just take what the defense gives us.”
UMaine has developed a certain swagger on offense that it hopes to carry throughout the season.
“When you have confidence out there, you make good decisions as opposed to being hesitant,” McLemore said. “We know that when we get open shots, we’re going to knock them down.”