The University of Maine men’s basketball team took to the court for their first exhibition game of the 2017-2018 season when they hosted the Husson University Eagles on Saturday, Oct. 29 at the Cross Insurance Centre in Bangor. Maine defeated Husson 84-63. The last time these two faced off was last year on Oct. 29, Maine won 108-79. Last year, the Black Bears finished with a record of 7-25 in regular season play and finished 3-13 in conference play. The Eagles went 21-7 in regular play last year and 16-2 in conference play.
The starting five for the Black Bears included third-year Aaron Calixte, third-year Trae Bryant, red-shirt second year Isaiah White, second-year Andrew Fleming and fourth-year Ilker Er.
In the first half, Husson came out of the gates strong when they took a quick lead, with a field goal percentage of 42.9 However, the lead didn’t last long when White turned on the heat when he made a few nice dunks, putting Maine back into the game. With 15:04 remaining in the half, Husson led 7-6 with a field goal percentage of 42.9. The score quickly started to go in the Black Bears’ favor when they led 20-10. White was having a good game early, going 3-3 for field goal attempts. The Black Bears were shooting 50 percent from the field. White lead the team with seven points and four steals.
The Black Bears continued to bring on the heat with 7:22 remaining in the half when they led 28-15. Fleming led the Black Bears with four rebounds. With 3:27 remaining in the half, Maine increased their lead by 11, making it 36-25. With 0.39 seconds left, Er went two for two at the line after being fouled, increasing the lead to 44-29.
“We’ve definitely made huge gains in terms of competing. That’s one of our biggest focuses and as long as we can continue to compete at every possession, I think we’re going to have a great chance this year,” Fleming said.
After 20 minutes of play, Maine’s scoring leaders were White with 10 points (4-7), Fleming with seven points and third-year Ilija Stojilkovic with six points. The Black Bears were shooting 48.5 percent from the field range (16-33) and making 41.7 percent of their three-point attempts (5-12).
In the second half, White continued to lead in points when he made it 46-31. Bryant then hit a three from the right corner to put Maine up by 17 earning in the half. Husson fourth-year Raheem Anderson hit a three pointer to make the score 50-34. Maine’s defensive play was tight, holding Husson to just 28.9 percent (11-38) from the field.
“I sat out last year at this time so I was really looking forward to playing. It was an unbelievable opportunity and I really can’t quite put it into words but it was great,” White said.
Third-year Vernon Lowndes Jr. made it 54-40 when he jumped up for a rebound and just tipped the ball into the net. Calixte then hit shot from behind the arc to put the Black Bears up by 19. Husson went two for two at the line after a Maine foul, making the score 59-42.
Second-year Danny Evans hit a three pointer to increase the Black Bear lead to 66-44 with less than 10 minutes left in the game. With 7:54 remaining in the game, White continued to lead with 12 points (3-11).
Fleming then hit two free-throws after being fouled going up for a lay-up, increasing the score to 72-47. Husson’s third-year Justin Martin then hit two free-throws, as well, putting the Eagles down by 23.
With 3:50 left in the game, Anderson hit a shot just beyond the arc to make the score 76-57. Third-year Dennis Ashley then hit a perfect three to increase Maine’s lead to 79-58 with less than two minutes remaining in the game. White continued to wrack up the points when he hit a three-pointed to increase the Black Bear’s lead to 84-60. The final score of the game was 84-63.
“I think it’s good to just get out on the floor in a game situation and learn what we have and what we need to work on. I thought today was really good for that. I love Husson, I love their team, I love their confidence, they come in ready to beat you every time. We have a lot of new guys so I think it was a great day for us to learn,” Head Coach Bob Walsh said.
The Black Bears take the court next on Nov. 5 when they host another exhibition game against Saint Joseph’s College of Maine at the Memorial Gym in Orono, Maine. Tip off is scheduled for 2:00 p.m. The Eagles’ next game is Saturday, Nov. 18 when they will also take on Saint Joseph’s College of Maine. Tip off is scheduled for 3:00 p.m.