The final regular season contest for the University of Maine men’s basketball team saw them tip off against the University of Vermont Catamounts in Bangor at the Cross Insurance Center. Vermont came into the matchup seeded first in America East. UMaine on the other hand sat last in the conference, with a record of 6-22 before the start of the game and already eliminated from playoff contention.
While both teams struggled to score early on, Vermont got the scoring underway as fourth-year forward Isaiah Powell got to the bucket with ease. Vermont extended their lead to 8-0 before second-year UMaine forward Peter Filipovity got the first basket, making it 8-2. Fifth-year center Chris Efretuei and second-year guard Adefolarin “Fofo” Adetogun’s defense stepped up a notch to deny numerous Catamount trips into the paint, keeping the score within fifteen points for a majority of the first half. The half itself ended with Vermont up 38-24.
Both teams performed similarly in the second half, with Vermont extending their lead to over 20 points at various intervals across the final frame. Vermont’s fourth-year forward Ryan Davis had free reign whenever the ball was in his hands, finishing around the rim with ease and failing to miss a single one of his free throws all night to finish with a team-high of 16 points.
A bevy of technical fouls called against the Black Bears angered the players and crowd alike, further burying head coach Jai Steadman’s group under a mountain of free throws. Fourth-year forward Stephane Ingo played one of the most defensively dominant games of his career, swatting shots to the tune of six total blocks and playing as a de-facto center whenever fifth-year big man Chris Efretuei was on the bench.
At the end of the night, Vermont was able to cap off their dominant display with the time expiring on a 75-56 victory for head coach John Becker’s Catamounts. The win put Vermont at a 25-5 record overall and a 17-1 record within the conference, with their only loss in the conference coming to Hartford by one point earlier in the season.
Overall, the Black Bears showed great improvement in a season full of turmoil. Turmoil such as former head coach Richard Barron and UMaine mutually agreed to part ways and Ingo suffering an injury at the beginning of the year that saw him miss time. Nothing seemed to be working in favor of UMaine. Yet, there were still bright spots along the way, like Steadman’s first win as a head coach against New Jersey Institute of Technology on Feb. 20. Also, before the game vs Vermont, four seniors Efretuei, Ingo, fourth-year guard Ja-Shonte Wright-McLeish and Lechaun Duhart were honored before the game versus Vermont.
After leading the team in scoring for a majority of the season, second-year guard Vukasin Masic relinquished his spot at the top to third-year guard Maks Klanjscek. Klanjscek’s 9.7 points per game was the highest for the Black Bears in the category, setting up the Slovenian for what should be an even better fourth year. Masic led the team in assists, putting up a mark of 3.1 per game, while putting together a very well-rounded statline in several other categories. First-year forward Kristians Feierberg’s 36% average from beyond the arc led the team, just barely beating out fourth-year guard Ja-Shonte Wright-McLeish and Masic who both had marks of 35%.
Ingo’s season was a pure statistical anomaly with his 2.5 blocks per game standing out more than anything else. Ingo made sure to accompany that number with 7.3 points per game, a team-leading 5.9 rebounds a night and almost a steal a game as well. His leadership as a captain and his on-the-court performance will be sorely missed next year. Thankfully with the emergence of players such as Filipovity, first-year guard Sam Ihekwoaba and first-year guard Byron Ireland, the team looks to be in good hands for the near future.