Sunday’s loss at Boston University ended the regular season for the University of Maine men’s basketball team. The defeat completed a disappointing fifth place campaign, but the Black Bears had little time to reflect upon it. Monday’s practice was a walk through with Vermont in preparation for the America East Men’s Basketball Championship which begins Saturday in Boston.
“Whether you’re in first place or eighth place, everyone becomes the same in the conference tournaments,” head coach John Giannini said. “And that’s why fans enjoy it so much.”
The fifth-seeded Black Bears tip-off at 8:15 p.m. against the No. 4 seed, University of New Hampshire, in the final game on Saturday. The winner will likely face regular season champ Vermont, unless surging Stony Brook can knock off the No. 1 seed. UMaine and UNH split the season series, with each team winning on the road.
“We’re playing teams we’ve beaten,” Giannini said. “At the same time, we know that ourselves and most teams can lose that first game if you don’t play real well.”
Wildcat guard Marcus Bullock nearly beat the Black Bears single-handedly when the teams squared off in Orono. Bullock had a career night, scoring 24 points, and draining eight of 10 three-point attempts. Teammates Austin Ganly and Jeff Senulis also shot well, helping the Wildcats shoot a school record 74% from beyond the arc. Ganly, averaging 15.8 points per game, and Chris Brown, second in America East in rebounding, lead a veteran lineup.
“With (Assane) Faye and Brown and Ganly, they have some guys who’ve been around along time,” Giannini said, “and are playing their best basketball of the season.”
However, the coach feels his team matches up well “as far as how our best defenders can guard their best players.”
The season has been a struggle (1-6 down the stretch) but co-captain Jamar Croom believes his team can advance to the NCAA tournament.
“With everything that has happened this year, winning the tournament would be a great mantle piece to put up,” said the fifth-year senior. “It would really represent the adversity we’ve gone through and let everyone know it was worth it.”
UNH senior Chris Brown averaged a double-double against UMaine this season, 10 points and 12 rebounds, and will be heading home to Boston.
John Giannini is 11-2 all-time against UNH.
UMaine finished the season 4-2 against the new SUNY schools. Its only two loses came against eighth place Stony Brook.
Black Bears started the conference schedule at 6-3, including a four-game win streak but finished the regular season with one win in seven games. The lone win was against No. 1 Vermont, who only lost three times all season.