It has been a somewhat less hectic week for the University of Maine’s basketball teams as neither plays until Saturday.
Coach Ted Woodward’s UMaine men will attempt to keep their momentum going after beating Binghamton on Saturday for their second win in a row.
The women’s squad, under Richard Barron, has played better of late and is coming off Saturday’s victory against Binghamton.
Both teams are preparing for road games at the University of Maryland Baltimore County.
The men (10-10 overall, 4-5 America East) appear to be back on track after snapping their five-game losing streak last week. They sit in sixth place in the league standings.
“Two in a row, we’ve got to keep it going the second half of league [play],” said senior Gerald McLemore, pointing out conference opponents are well prepared for what UMaine can and can’t do.
“It’s tough, but everyone’s making adjustments,” he added.
UMaine has learned it will play Marist in its ESPN BracketBusters game, which is scheduled for Feb. 18 or 19 in Orono. The Red Foxes of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference are 7-14 this season.
McLemore has bounced back from a scoring slump to average 20 points on 50 percent 3-point shooting (6-for-12) in the two recent wins. Sophomore Alasdair Fraser (15.5 ppg, 8.5 rebounds per game) and freshman Justin Edwards (16.0 ppg, 7.5 rpg) have been excellent complements offensively.
Junior forward Mike Allison, coming off a foot injury, continues to give UMaine a rebounding and shot-blocking presence in the paint.
“It’s nice to go into our bye week here and try to improve on a couple things,” Woodward said.
The women’s squad showed its improving competitiveness in Saturday’s victory.
The Bears (6-16, 3-6 AE) avoided long scoring droughts and made the necessary plays down the stretch to secure the win.
“I was just very proud,” Barron said. “Even the way we handled it down the stretch, we were very composed with their pressure.”
The were able to limit their turnovers (13) against Binghamton and establish better continuity at the offensive end in addition to working hard on defense.
“I feel like just we’re getting used to playing with each other and the offense, executing,” said freshman Becca Knight of Alfred. “We’ve gotten a lot better just getting a feel for each other.”
Individually, senior forward Sam Baranowski continues to provide consistency for UMaine. She established a career best with 20 points in Saturday’s victory and has scored in double figures each of the last six contests.
Baranowski, a senior tri-captain, is averaging 13.8 points and 5.6 rebounds in league play and has scored in double figures in nine of her last 10 games.
Classmate and fellow captain Brittany Williams also has provided a boost of late.
She logged 39 minutes per game last week and averaged 11.5 points for the Bears. Williams hit some big shots against Binghamton.
“I thought some of the 3’s that Brittany hit after having a cold first half (0-for-6, including 0-for-5 from long distance) were just tough. They were gutty shots,” Barron said.
Barron issues ‘Play4Kay’ challenge
When Barron addressed UMaine fans at Alfond Arena after Saturday’s win, he issued a challenge.
If Black Bear nation can raise $10,000 to support the “Play4Kay” initiative that promotes breast cancer awareness and research, he will shave his head. He hopes it will serve as a show of support for cancer patients who are undergoing chemotherapy and radiation treatments.
“All the money goes to research, in a grant form, each year,” Barron said. “We’ve given millions of dollars and it’s been a very successful charity. It’s part of the Coaches vs. Cancer project.”
Barron has been active during his coaching career in the Coaches vs. Cancer effort. Play4Kay is named for the late Kay Yow, the longtime North Carolina State women’s coach who died of breast cancer in 2009.
The program supports the Kay Yow Cancer Fund, which is affiliated with The V Foundation, named after late N.C. State men’s coach Jim Valvano, and the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association.
Barron knew Yow well through his affiliation with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.
“She was a dear woman and a great ambassador,” Barron said. “For two years, we really coached in her shadow there at N.C. State. There was a very strong legacy.”
UMaine’s efforts will center on its Feb. 15 home game against Hartford, during which players and coaches will wear pink and donations will be collected at Alfond Arena.
“If we can get to $10,000, then after the game against Hartford, win or lose, we’ll have a little head-shaving ceremony on the court,” Barron said.
Fans can find out more about the Play4Kay initiative or make a donation directly through the UMaine women’s basketball page at GoBlackBears.com.
“Obviously, any form of cancer is terrible,” Barron said. “Breast cancer happens to be one for women’s athletics that is, appropriately, the centerpiece.”