The curtain was drawn on the University of Maine Black Bears men’s basketball team’s winningest season in over 10 years on Saturday, as they lost to the University of Massachusetts Lowell Riverhawks 85-54 at the Costello Center in Lowell, Massachusetts.
After a long and grueling regular season for the Black Bears, a first-round playoff exit was not a surprise to most who follow America East basketball. Maine has yet to win the conference championship in the America East, and typically is not a contender for that title.
Despite this being their most successful regular season in over a decade, the Black Bears still weren’t much to write home about, as they finished 13-17 overall, 7-9 in conference, to place seventh in the conference out of nine teams.
Conversely, UMass Lowell, who have also never won the America East conference, finished at 25-7 overall with an 11-5 in-conference record.
Despite the mismatch in seeding, Black Bear fans kept some optimism going into this game, as Maine split the regular-season series with the Riverhawks after a five-point victory in Bangor on Jan. 25.
The game itself was mostly a lull as far as competitive basketball was concerned. The Riverhawks slowly piled onto an ever-growing points margin and had an 18-point lead by halftime. They did not take their foot off the gas from there.
By the end of the contest, everyone was ready to go home, as UMass Lowell put the finishing touches on a dominant 31-point opening-round victory.
The Riverhawks dominated in all aspects, with a 57% field goal percentage and 33 rebounds, 10 more than the Black Bears.
Maine also shot an absolutely dreadful 19% from three-point range, only managing to shoot 41% overall through a stifling Riverhawks defense.
One bright spot for the Black Bears was Kellen Tynes, who picked up three more steals to finish the season with 98 total. This breaks a program record at UMaine, and comes just four steals shy of an America East conference victory.
Time will tell if Tynes will finish ahead of the rest of NCAA Division I basketball players in both steals per game and raw steals. He has led in those categories for nearly the entire season.
A blowout loss in the first round of the playoffs will never feel good, but head coach Chris Markwood and the fans should be optimistic about the seasons to come for Maine men’s basketball.
Maine will only graduate three players this offseason: leading scorer and transfer student Gedi Juozapaitis, three-point threat Ja’Shonté Wright-McLeish and rotation player LeChaun DuHart.
Maine will retain most of their roster for next year, and Markwood has his work cut out for him as he looks to build upon a promising campaign this year that fell just short of its potential.
Young players like Tynes, Kristians Feierbergs and Maine Mr. Basketball recipient John Shea will look to carry this program to the promised land after countless years of struggle in the mid-major environment.