ORONO, Maine — The University of Maine men’s basketball team has spent most of the early part of its season on the road playing high-caliber opponents.
Thursday night, the Black Bears got a bit of a break from the grind with a home contest against an opponent they were expected to beat.
Coach Ted Woodward’s ballclub did not disappoint, showing off their superior Division I talent, size and chemistry while rolling to a 97-42 victory over Fisher College of Boston.
The Falcons are coached by Ellsworth High graduate David Lindberg, whose father Bruce was a longtime coach and is now the headmaster at Lee Academy.
Fisher, which plays as an NAIA Division II independent, were understandably overmatched.
UMaine (3-5) attacked the basket effectively, took advantage of its transition prowess and dominated the rebounding in a strong, well-rounded performance.
Sophomore point guard Xavier Pollard headed a group of six UMaine double-figure scorers with 14 points to help the Black Bears run away with it. Junior Alasair Fraser logged a double-double with 13 points and 14 rebounds and registered one of 10 slam dunks that were distributed among six players.
“It’s definitely fun to get up and down, (score) fast-break points, because you don’t really get a chance to do that when you play against better teams,” said Pollard, who scored 10 of his points before intermission and played only 15 minutes.
Sophomore Zarko Valjarevic tossed in 13 points, Justin Edwards and Till Gloger netted 12 each and Stefan Micovic added 10. The Black Bears shot 63 percent (39-for-62) from the field and grabbed a 45-34 rebounding edge.
UMaine didn’t take Fisher for granted.
“Games like that, it’s hard to get focused a lot of times because you’re kind of thinking ‘we know we’re better, we know we’re going to win,’” offered Fraser, who provided four assists, two blocked shots and a steal.
Freshman guard Dimitry Coronel finished with eight points, including three impressive fast-break dunks, and three steals. Edwards threw down three dunks and added four assists and two blocks.
Freshman point guard Shaun Lawton was a two-way terror, putting up eight assists and six steals to go with five points.
“We had some guys that we wanted to get some minutes in there tonight,” said Woodward, pointing out Gloger, Micovic, Lawton and Coronel.
“We did a good job of sharing the basketball — 27 assists,” he added.
The Bears were without seniors Mike Allison and Jon McAllian of Bangor, along with sophomore Leon Cooper, all of whom are dealing with illness or injury.
Ryan McCorkle and Sam Nwadike paced Fisher (4-6) with eight points each. The Falcons shot only 23 percent (16-for-69) from the floor and committed 23 turnovers against the quicker Bears’ man-to-man defensive pressure.
“We’ve been trying to get our kids to play as hard as they can and I don’t think they backed down,” said Lindberg, who explained his team has three Division I opponents on its schedule.
“Hopefully, these games make us better at the end of the year, too,” he added, pointing out his team features 11 underclassmen.
The outcome was never in doubt as the Bears cruised to a 46-17 halftime advantage.
The game featured plenty of high-energy, end-to-end action. The pace was fueled by Fisher’s shooting woes, as the visitors started out 1-for-10 from the floor and wound up going 7-for-34 (21 percent) in the half.
UMaine shot a sizzling 66 percent (19-for-29) as the Bears got numerous transition baskets and were able to find plenty of holes in Fisher’s man-to-man and zone defenses.
The hosts began to pull away with a momentum-building 13-0 run.
Pollard got it started by banking in a short jumper, then went in for a dunk after a Jon Mesghna steal. Lawton then lobbed to Edwards for a slam off a baseline cut.
Mesghna kept the surge going by sticking a 3-pointer, before Fraser fed Edwards for another dunk and Lawton laid in a pretty finger roll off an Edwards assist to give UMaine a 21-4 lead with 11:05 to play in the half.
Fisher had to settle mostly for perimeter shots and could not convert despite getting a number of good looks at the basket. UMaine’s strong rebounding off those misses fueled its running game.
“It’s nice to get out in the passing lanes, get fast-break points,” Pollard said. “(It’s) much easier to score that way.”
The Black Bears go back to work Friday with a much more serious test awaiting them this weekend.
“We’ll take things away from this one tonight and tomorrow (Friday) we’ll prepare for Florida State,” Woodward said of Sunday’s game in Tallahassee.