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Men’s Basketball Drops Third Straight Conference Game, Falls to Vermont

The University of Maine men’s basketball team put up a good effort on Saturday, Feb. 17, and were unable to overcome the top team in the America East conference as they fell at home to the Vermont Catamounts by a score of 68-57.

Maine came into this contest, the first of a three-game homestand, in desperate need of a conference win. The Black Bears had managed just a 3-7 record in the America East, including five defeats by a margin of five or fewer points.

The game got off to a messy start for Maine, as the Catamounts managed a 15-3 run to begin the contest. Maine did not have an offensive rhythm and allowed good looks from all over the floor.

Eventually, the Black Bears found their groove and scored to make the game 20-18 with 10 minutes remaining in the half. Third-year guard Quion Burns topped off the run with a magnificent three-pointer. 

Burns finished with nine points in just 16 minutes as he made valuable contributions off the bench for Maine.

The Black Bears took their first lead since the opening possession with just over four minutes to go in the half, as third-year guard Jaden Clayton knocked down a big three to make it 28-25 Maine.

However, the lead would not survive until the break, as an 11-1 Vermont run would bring the score to 36-29 at halftime. 

The first three minutes of the second half were scoreless, as neither team made any headway against the other’s defense. It didn’t take long after that for each team to break the ice, as they traded buckets the rest of the way. 

Maine had opportunities to get back in the game, though. The Black Bears reduced the deficit to five points two times in the late part of the second half. However, they couldn’t generate enough offense to fuel the comeback as the Catamounts finished them off down the stretch. 

Third-year guard Kellen Tynes took most of Maine’s offense into his hands, leading the team with 17 points, shooting 6-13 and collecting seven rebounds.

A tremendous portion of Vermont’s success in this game came through their ability to control the paint, specifically by shutting down fourth-year forward Peter Fillipovity. The big man did not look like himself, as he managed only five points, shooting 20% and accumulating seven boards. 

Amidst the struggles for the forwards, Maine’s backcourt also did not find a lot of offensive success. The team shot 4-17 from beyond the arc. In a combined 48 minutes, third-year sharpshooters JaShonté Wright-McLeish and AJ Lopez only managed four combined points. The duo shot 1-10 from the field. 

One aspect of the game in which the Black Bears fell short was at the free throw line. Maine shot a disappointing 52.4% from the charity stripe on 21 attempts, including a lowly 42.9% in the second half. It’s safe to say that coach Chris Markwood will have his team taking plenty of free throw drills after they left 10 free points on the board against a conference foe. 

Third-year guard Shamir Bogues set the tone for UVM, putting up 21 points, seven rebounds, and three assists while shooting over 50%. Fifth-year forward and native of Scarborough, Maine, Nick Firillo, put up 12 points and had two emphatic shot blocks. 

With this weekend’s defeat, Maine falls to 11-15 overall and 3-8 in conference. This loss is certainly not the end of the world, considering it came against the team that’s won the regular season conference title every year dating back to 2017. However, it must be frustrating to the players who have come up just short in yet another America East matchup. 

The Black Bears will focus on the remainder of this homestand as they gear up to host the University of Maryland Baltimore County on Thursday and the New Jersey Institute of Technology on Saturday. 

The remainder of Maine’s conference schedule should be a little less of a struggle than how it began, as they’ll mostly face their neighbors in the standings for the rest of the year in UMBC, NJIT, UAlbany, and Binghamton.

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