This Friday, Nov. 19, the University of Maine Black Bears men’s basketball team took on the University of Maine at Fort Kent Bengals at “The Pit” in the Black Bears’ fourth game of the 2021-22 regular season. The Black Bears were looking to turn around their season after two tough losses to Virginia Tech and the University of Colorado.
UMaine’s top performer, third-year forward Steph Ingo sat out of the contest and wore a brace over his right wrist for the evening. First-year forward Kristians Feierbergs stepped into the open role, and fellow first-year Milos Nenadic started at center in place of fifth-year Chris Efretuei.
Fort Kent’s first-year forward Aiden Grady’s gritty play was no match for second-year Adefolarin “Fofo” Adetogun’s athleticism, as the guard rose up and emphatically swatted away the Bengals’ best chance to open the scoring. Fofo turned his defense into offense, driving the ball up the court and finding Nenadic for a slam to open the contest.
While contingents of the Black Bears offense started firing, third-year guard Lechaun DuHart had trouble getting the lid off, starting the game off 0-3 from the field. Black Bear and second-year guard Vukasin Masic, drilled the first three of the contest, putting Maine back in the lead only a few minutes in.
Masic wasn’t done there, driving the length of the court on a fastbreak and maneuvering around multiple Fort Kent defenders before softly laying up an easy two points. Efretuei entered the game after Nenadic left and made an instant impact, scoring and stealing a fastbreak quickly after his entrance.
With momentum, UMaine began their run and capped it off with an incredible and-one basket from UMaine’s second-year forward Peter Filipovity off of some spectacular passing by first-year guard Byron Ireland to put the Black Bears up 18-9 about halfway through the frame.
Efretuei found himself in the middle of things again when he sent a shot from a Fort Kent ball handler off of the backboard, springing a possession culminating in a fading two-point basket off the hands of first-year guard Sam Ihekwoaba to extend the lead.
Just before halftime, DuHart was able to finally break the ice with a three, his only make of the game with the exception of a pair of free throws. Fort Kent was unable to be silenced as guard Troy Williams sank a clutch buzzer-beating three to end the half. Shortly thereafter, a scuffle with UMaine’s Ja’Shonte Wright-Mcleish and Williams unfolded in the corner, leading to both players being issued technical fouls.
Vukasin Masic came out firing to start the second half, finishing a clean up-and-under layup to push UMaine’s lead to 13. Troy Williams continued to be a thorn in UMaine’s side, draining an off-balance, deep three-pointer to beat the shot clock buzzer. In the next offensive possession for Fort Kent, Williams converted on a double clutch layup through traffic.
Taking matters into his own hands, Masic came alive on the defensive side of the ball, intercepting a pass one play, and then burying a tough shot from downtown to push the score to 45-27 in UMaine’s favor. With the lead growing, the Black Bears only ramped up their intensity, with Efretuei and Ihekwoaba throwing down two handed jams on back-to-back plays, igniting both the home bench and the crowd.
Turgut had been crucial in moving the ball on the offensive end of things, snagging multiple offensive rebounds to keep plays alive, and converting a bucket off of a great find by Masic down low with just under five to go.
This time, Ihekwoaba teamed up with Wright-Mcleish for dunks on back to back fastbreak opportunities, extending the Black Bears lead to just shy of 30. The Black Bears won 75-43 behind stellar performances from Masic and Efretuei. Masic had 13 points, four assists, four rebounds and three steals. Efretuei had 9 points, three rebounds, one assist, one block and one steal.
“We just wanted it more. We wanted to prove to the country that we’re a good team. We got embarrassed over there in Colorado and just wanted to come back with a new attitude,” Efretuei said following his side’s performance. “My teammates had the confidence in me and we executed, definitely nothing too complex.”
The Black Bears will play next on Tuesday, Nov. 23, at home against Central Connecticut State University.