It has been a frustrating two weeks for the University of Maine men’s basketball team.
The Black Bears, who appeared to be rounding into a good, cohesive ballclub, have faltered.
Coach Ted Woodward’s team takes an 8-10 overall record and a 2-5 America East mark into Wednesday night’s game against border rival New Hampshire at Lundholm Gymnasium in Durham, N.H.
The Bears bounced back from a disappointing effort last Thursday against Hartford with a better performance in Saturday’s 58-52 home loss to Stony Brook.
Even so, UMaine players realize things aren’t clicking well right now.
“We definitely feel like we’re going to turn it around,” said freshman guard Justin Edwards. “We’ve been talking a lot as a team, without the coaches, so we’ve been working amongst each other so we know what we’ve got to do and we know we’re going to do it in the future.”
The Bears’ defense has been better in the last two games as they have allowed only 60.5 points per contest.
The obvious deficiency in those games was offensive production. UMaine averaged 50.5 points per game while shooting 37 percent from the floor, including only 22 percent from 3-point distance.
Woodward, who admitted UMaine was out of sync against Hartford, said Stony Brook’s defensive efforts had more to do with the Bears’ low scoring output on Saturday.
Most conspicuous by his lack of scoring of late has been senior Gerald McLemore, UMaine’s top scorer at 17.7 points per game, including 45 percent accuracy from long range.
McLemore has scored only seven points in his last two games combined on 3-for-12 shooting (1-for-7 on 3s). He managed only three points in 15 minutes of action Saturday and did not play in the second half because of what Woodward called a coach’s decision.
UMaine’s inability to consistently rebound well has hampered its ability to utilize a strong transition game. The Bears also appear to have stagnated in their half-court offense, which has found them passing the ball around the perimeter with limited ability or success attacking the basket off the dribble.
“[The key is] just try to stay positive throughout the whole team because we know what we can do,” said freshman guard Xavier Pollard, who was a catalyst with a career-high 14 points against Stony Brook. “That’s pretty much a point of emphasis is to stay positive and look forward because we’ve got a whole season ahead of us.”
UMaine has 10 conference games remaining before heading to West Hartford, Conn., for the America East tournament. Nobody realizes more than the seniors the importance of getting back on track quickly.
“I know I only have  games left in my career,” McLemore said after the loss to Hartford. “We [seniors] know that our time’s limited, so we’re not taking it for granted.”
He added there is sufficient time to get back on track.
“I’d rather have us go through this right now than in the second half of league [play],” McLemore said. “I’d rather have us hitting all cylinders in the second half of league and into the playoffs.”
It might be the end of January, but that isn’t stopping the UMaine baseball team from getting in some outside work.
With full-squad practices scheduled to begin Friday, coach Steve Trimper had smaller groups out on Mahaney Diamond in Orono on Tuesday to take advantage of the unseasonably warm weather.
With temperatures in the mid- to high 40s and a sunny, cooler day in the mid-30s expected Wednesday, Trimper wanted to take advantage of the FieldTurf rather than hold workouts inside the Mahaney Dome.
The Black Bears, who won the 2011 America East championship and went 1-2 at the NCAA Chapel Hill (N.C.) Regional, also were scheduled to be recognized Tuesday night as part of the WZON Hot Stove Night at the Bangor Civic Center.
Trimper also has announced the addition to the UMaine roster of Connecticut native Jack Pritchard.
The rugged first baseman and designated hitter has transferred to UMaine after spending the fall semester at Furman University.
“He’s a big, strong, power hitter-type guy,” Trimper said. “He’s got a lot of ability to drive the baseball.”
The 6-foot, 240-pounder does not become eligible until next January, but his arrival should help ease the transition after the departure next season of senior twins Justin Leisenheimer and Ian Leisenheimer.
UMaine baseball also is gearing up for one of its key fundraising events. “A Maine Baseball Evening” is scheduled from 4:30 to 7 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 18, at Trimper’s home in Bangor.
“It goes toward the spring trip,” Trimper said of the proceeds from the event, which is $50 per person.
UMaine baseball fans and friends are invited to turn out for an evening of baseball conversation. Jim Churchill, the voice of UMaine baseball, will host “hot stove chatter” and will be joined by this reporter to talk about UMaine, the Red Sox and their prospects for the 2012 season.
Food and beverages are being provided through the generosity of The Muddy Rudder Restaurant in Brewer.
Trimper’s home is located at 450 Walden Parke Way, off outer Essex Street, in Bangor.
For information, call the UMaine baseball office at 207-581-1097.