After starting their season undefeated in exhibition games against Husson University and McGill University, the University of Maine men’s basketball team has hit a bit of a bump in the road. Though they did rout Merrimack at home on Wednesday, Nov. 6, by a final score of 84-64, Maine’s past week of play has left the team going back to the drawing board on some of their play design. On Sunday, Nov. 10, Maine traveled down to Cambridge, Massachusetts to take on the Harvard University Pilgrims. After defeating the Merrimack Warriors 84-64, Maine was humbled by the Pilgrims, falling 46-67.

Through the first half, the fireworks show was equal from both sides. Maine got off to a hot start as third-year forward Nedeljko Prijovic hit a crisp three-pointer, and on the Pilgrims’ ensuing possession, fourth-year guard Sergio El Darwich stole the ball from Harvard’s fourth-year forward Chris Lewis and laid it up perfectly to fourth-year forward Andrew Fleming for the hammer dunk. Maine’s quick lead, jumping from 2-2 to 7-2, didn’t stop, and they eventually found themselves up 19-12 with just over 11 minutes remaining in the first half. Following substitutions, in which all but one Black Bear came off the court, the Pilgrims went to work against Maine’s bench, leveling the score and forcing both teams to trade minimal leads back and forth for the remainder of the period. Maine somehow held the 31-30 lead heading into the half, though they only shot 42.9% from the field and 33.3% from beyond the arc, compared to Harvard’s 43.5% and 40%, respectively.

In the second half, the Pilgrims blew the doors off their hinges, taking the lead with 14 minutes left to play, courtesy of a dunk by fourth-year forward Robert Baker, and they didn’t look back from there. Maine’s worst stat to reflect on was being outscored 38 points to 18 points in the paint, and an off night from Fleming who went 5-13 from the field, ultimately lead to the Black Bears’ defeat. Look for head coach Richard Barron to try and strengthen up the core of his defense by utilizing Fleming more. 

Maine’s follow up contest had them not on the road, but through the air to Oregon, where they faced off against the University of Portland Pilots on Saturday, Nov. 16. Much like their contest against Harvard, the Black Bears were able to go toe-to-toe with their opponent throughout the first half. Maine managed to shoot 36.67% from the field, and 33.3% from the three-point line, and somehow managed to keep within three points of Portland, who shot 60.87% from the field and shot zero three-pointers in the first half. With the score at 30-27 coming out of the half, the Pilots began to light up the scoreboard following a substitution rotation for the Black Bears. Taking advantage of Maine’s bench, the Pilots began shooting threes, charging the paint, and generally played more aggressively against the Black Bears’ backups. Portland wasn’t able to go on a scoring run, however, but the team did slowly increase their lead over the half. Maine couldn’t keep pace and lost 71-62.

For their next contest, the Black Bears will be hitting the road to take on the University of Washington on Tuesday, Nov. 19 at 8 p.m. Although Maine’s out-of-conference games do impact the overall record for the team, the in-conference contests matter more toward playoff implications.