ORONO, Maine — There have been significant changes to the University of Maine men’s basketball roster since the end of last season.
On Saturday afternoon, the Black Bears provided fans with their first peek at the revamped ballclub.
Zarko Valjarevic scored a game-high 18 points, leading UMaine to an 83-57 exhibition victory over McGill University at Memorial Gym.
Coach Ted Woodward’s Black Bears, who do not have any seniors, demonstrated good balance and depth while taking advantage of their versatile corps of guards.
The contest provided the first collegiate game action for UMaine freshman Garet Beal of Beals Island, who had a vocal group of fans in the stands, along with Troy Reid-Knight, Chris Ejiga, Marko Pirovic, Erik Nissen and Mitch Worcester.
“I thought we had great contributions from our freshman class, in particular,” Woodward said. “We’ve got guys that have great IQs, really understand the game, are tough.”
Beal contributed 13 points and five rebounds for UMaine, while Dimitry Coronel posted 11 points and six rebounds and Ethan Mackey added 11 points and five boards.
Reid-Knight chipped in seven points, six assists, three steals and three rebounds and Xavier Pollard added six points, five assists and a steal for the Bears.
UMaine shot 48 percent (30-for-63) from the field, including 40 percent from 3-point range, and outrebounded the Redmen 45-34.
Valjarevic hit four of seven from 3-point range and is enjoying the new mix of players this season.
“I think since I’m here this is the best team chemistry we’ve had,” said the junior from Serbia. “I believe that’s one of the keys for success in college basketball.”
Dele Ogundokun paced McGill of Montreal (5-5 in nonleague play) with 14 points. Thomas Lacy netted 13, Francois Bourque tallied 10 and Vincent Dufort posted five points and a game-high 10 rebounds.
Sophomore Christian McCue of Hampden did not score.
The Black Bears pulled ahead for good with 15-3 burst midway through the first half. UMaine had struggled to a 4-for-16 shooting start, but settled down.
With the Redmen leading 12-9, Reid-Knight opened the decisive surge with a runner in the lane. Pollard sank two free throws, then Reid-Knight found Ejiga underneath for a hoop.
Nathan Joyal broke up the run with a 3-pointer, but Reid-Knight sank a 3-pointer off a pass from Beal and Valjarevic dunked in transition to keep the momentum on UMaine’s side. Beal’s baseline move and another Ejiga close-range basket off a Reid-Knight feed put the Bears on top 24-15 with 7:25 remaining in the half on the way to a 38-28 lead at the break.
“Troy just really makes it easy for guys,” Woodward said. “He knows how to set things up so guys can get catches [in the paint].”
McGill took advantage of some UMaine turnovers while trimming the deficit to 48-43 on a baseline drive by Thomas Lacy with 12:32 to play. The Redmen scored 21 points as the result of the Bears’ miscues.
However, the Bears exploited their ability to get into the paint and draw fouls, receiving four points from Pirovic amidst a 12-0 run that put the game out of reach at 60-43 with 9:35 left.