Lack of experience, on-court chemistry, depth led to disappointing season for UMaine

By Pete Warner, BDN Staff
Posted March 06, 2012, at 1:17 p.m.

It was another disappointing season for the University of Maine men’s basketball team.

Coach Ted Woodward’s Black Bears (12-17) exited the America East tournament Saturday with a 50-40 quarterfinal loss to Vermont.

Even though UMaine was without scoring leader Gerald McLemore (flu), it marked the seventh consecutive season the Bears have failed to win a postseason game under Woodward. The Bears are 1-8 in AE playoff games in his eight seasons.

In December, Woodward received a three-year contract extension from athletic director Steve Abbott that takes him through June 2015. His overall record at UMaine is 100-136 (.424).

Woodward and his staff were challenged by key graduation losses in Troy Barnies, Terrance Mitchell, Sean McNally and Malachi Peay, and the departure of sophomore Murphy Burnatowski.

They accounted for 56 percent of UMaine’s scoring, 53 percent of its rebounding and 49 percent off all minutes played during 2010-11.

With only two starters back, the Bears showed signs of promise during their nonleague schedule. They went 6-5, then never seemed to gel in conference play and lost 12 of their last 18 games.

UMaine built around senior guards McLemore, Raheem Singleton and Andrew Rogers and sophomore forward Alasdair Fraser. Three-point specialist McLemore averaged 17 points per game on his way to All-America East second-team recognition.

He also became UMaine’s all-time leader in 3-pointers with 323 and finished his career as the No. 3 scorer in school history (1,657 points) behind Rufus Harris (2,206) and Bob Warner (1,758).

Singleton (7.9 ppg, 3.4 assists per game) and Rogers (3.4 ppg, 3.3 apg) provided some scoring and were solid directing the offense, but neither proved a difference-maker.

Fraser (12.9 ppg, 7.8 rpg, .541 FG pct.) continued to develop, serving as the Bears’ only true post threat on his way to all-league, third-team honors. He was prone to foul trouble against more athletic post players.

Rangy junior forward Mike Allison (7.1 ppg, 6.9 rpg) emerged as a dynamic rebounding and shot-blocking force (2.2 bpg). His progress was slowed early by a concussion and a broken right (shooting) hand, but he earned a spot on the AE All-Defensive Team.

UMaine welcomed talented freshman guard Justin Edwards (13.9 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 3.6 apg, 1.4 spg), who showed flashes of brilliance but struggled with his consistency. The All-Rookie pick was prone to turnovers (3.0 per game) because of overaggressiveness trying to penetrate off the dribble.

Injuries hampered the Bears’ front-court depth. Senior Svetoslav Chetninov (3.2 ppg, 3.0 rpg) was providing a strong presence off the bench early but was lost to a season-ending leg injury after 12 games.

Oft-injured senior forward Travon Wilcher provided spot minutes and UMaine even tried junior guard Jon McAllian of Bangor as a forward to help fill the void.

Two other freshmen made significant contributions. Forward Kilian Cato (4.1 ppg, 2.0 rpg, .347 3-pt. pct.) averaged 17 minutes, but sometimes had trouble guarding opponents despite his guardlike offensive skills.

Guard Xavier Pollard (3.6 ppg) made big strides as the season went along. He was a tenacious defender and a strong guard who could get to the rim with authority.

First-year guard Zarko Valjarevic played sparingly, while the Bears lost promising freshman guard Noam Laish to a preseason hip injury and walk-on forward Ethan Mackey underwent preseason knee surgery. Walk-on Stefano Mancini of Falmouth did not play.

Some observers felt UMaine had enough talent to win more often, but it did not happen as they appeared to lack strong chemistry.

UMaine could not establish enough consistency at either end. The Bears were sometimes effective in transition, but often didn’t rebound well enough to be able to run. Their half-court sets were plagued by stagnancy.

They were eighth in 3-point percentage (.302) in league games and ranked last while allowing AE opponents to shoot 38 percent from beyond the arc.

UMaine’s wins came over teams with a combined league regular-season record of 11-37. The Bears went 0-10 against the other five AE teams, which went 55-25.

Fraser found himself double-teamed quickly once the ball was passed to him on the block and UMaine wasn’t able to establish another presence inside without attacking off the dribble. And because the Bears didn’t have a consistent 3-point threat to complement McLemore, teams could sag off and bottle up the middle more effectively.

This team seemed to peak early and level off, much like the 2010-11 squad that opened conference play 8-1 but lost eight of its last nine games.

UMaine dropped eight of its last nine down the stretch and lost 12 of its last 16 games.

Statistically, AE opponents got the better of the Bears in rematches, as UMaine scored an average of 6.8 fewer points while allowing 3.1 fewer points. The end results were the same.

Woodward and his staff have some recruiting work to do to replace McLemore’s scoring and the experience and floor leadership of Rogers and Singleton. Edwards and Pollard will be joined in the back court by Laish, McAllian and Valjarevic.

Fraser and Allison make a solid duo, but the Bears will have to find some depth and rebounding muscle in the paint. Cato must improve his defense and versatility rather than just playing on the outside.

Dimitry Coronel, a 6-4 guard-forward at Tabor Academy, was the Bears’ only NLI signee during the early period. UMaine also has received a verbal commitment from 6-10 forward Barry Webster from England, who is at Lee Academy.

With Woodward having lost nine seniors over the last two seasons, his ability to bring in at least two more players with the ability to contribute immediately will help determine whether UMaine can be more competitive next season.

http://bangordailynews.com/2012/03/06/sports/basketball/lack-of-experience-on-court-chemistry-depth-led-to-disappointing-season-for-umaine/ printed on July 22, 2014