BANGOR, Maine — The Husson University men’s basketball team has rebuilt effectively around two returning standouts.

The Eagles women’s program has manufactured its success with pressure defense and fast-paced offense.

Both teams will try to remain atop the North Atlantic Conference on Friday as they entertain Castleton State at Newman Gymnasium. The women’s game tips off at 5:30 p.m., followed by the men’s contest at 7:30 p.m.

With only one senior on the roster, coach Warren Caruso’s men’s team has compiled a 10-3 overall mark and an 8-0 NAC record. The Eagles have been sparked by the versatile guard tandem of senior Trevon Butler and junior Raheem Anderson, who have combined for 41 percent of Husson’s points while taking 36 percent of its shots.

Anderson is averaging a team-best 22.8 points per game on 50 percent shooting along with 3.9 rebounds. Butler has connected for 22.1 ppg on 49 percent accuracy to go with a team-leading 7.6 rebounds and 2.6 assists per outing.

“Offensively, we create some issues. With Trevon and Raheem, we’ve got two guys that are hard matchups for just about any team,” said Caruso, whose team is averaging 88.5 ppg while shooting 46 percent.

“The thing that really has started to make us really good is that the other pieces around them have figured out how to play with each other,” he added.

Junior guard Eli Itkin (5.4 ppg, 4.3 rpg) and sophomore guard Mitch Worcester of Washburn (4 ppg), who missed the first semester with an injury, are the only other major contributors back from last season.

Husson has blended four transfers and some younger players into the mix. The mainstays include junior forward Zach Curran (9.3 ppg, 3.5 rpg) and sophomore forward Darryl Wood (6.5 ppg, 2.8 rpg), along with junior forward Tyler Norris of Hampden (5.9 ppg, 4.2 rpg), sophomore guard Jordon Holmes of Oakland (5.1 ppg), freshman forward Justin Martin of Winslow (4.5 ppg, 5.9 rpg), and transfers Alonzo McCain (3.8 ppg) and Matavious Lockhart (3.7 ppg).

Curran, McCain, Lockhart and Wood all are between 22 and 24 years old.

“We looked at how do we reshape the roster and not bring in any freshmen, and we ended up with four transfers,” said Caruso, who had not intentionally targeted the older demographic, calling the dynamic purely coincidental.

In spite of the new faces, Husson continues to put itself in position to again challenge for a conference title.

“The team’s really committed and has a great work ethic, and I think those things are paying dividends as we hit the second part of the year,” Caruso said.

Coach Kissy Walker has implemented a fast-paced style, sparked by four Aroostook County performers, as the Husson women’s team has bolted to a 10-3 start (8-0 NAC).

“We’ve been playing a style where our whole philosophy is to be a pest on defense and to take the other team out of their comfort zone,” she said. I have nine guards. We’re pretty quick.”

Freshman guard Kenzie Worcester of Washburn, whose high school career was characterized by an aggressive, uptempo style, has burst onto the college scene. She is averaging 14.1 points, 3.9 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 2.5 steals while shooting 50 percent overall and 49 percent from the 3-point arc.

The guard-oriented contingent also has received important contributions from senior Victoria McIntyre of Mars Hill (13.2 ppg, team-best 6.8 rpg, 2.1 apg), junior Chandler Guerrette of Presque Isle (11.9 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 2.5 spg) and senior center Rebecca Young (8.5 ppg, 3.8 rpg), a University of Maine at Machias transfer.

There is a definite Aroostook County flavor to the squad, which also includes freshman guard/forward Joan Overman of Washburn (3 ppg). Sophomore guard Kylie Richards of Corinna (2.8 ppg), one of three former Nokomis High School stars, also has been a part-time starter.

“We have a lot of pride coming from The County,” said McIntyre, who played at Central Aroostook.

“We just have that County basketball instinct in us, I guess. We have a lot of fun,” she added, pointing out that she, Guerrette, Worcester and Overman often share the ride home.

The Eagles have plenty of depth, using the talents of junior transfer guard Darla Morales (4.4 ppg), sophomore forward and University of New England transfer Anna MacKenzie of Plymouth (4.2 ppg, 4.2 rpg), junior guard Denae Johnson of Bangor (3.8 ppg), freshman forward Maegan True of Holden (2.1 ppg), junior guard Miranda Drinkwater of Greenville and sophomore guard Kelsie Richards of Corinna.

Walker has espoused a philosophy that has enabled her to use 11 or 12 players in most games.

“This year we have a deeper bench, and coach just rotates a bunch of people in so that we can get fresh people in the game if we get tired,” McIntyre said.

“In the past we haven’t had as much quickness as we do have now, so we were kind of hesitant to press and run as much as we do now,” she added.

Walker said the Eagles’ troubles generally stem from poor shooting, but their ability to press and cause turnovers has helped them overcome most “cold” nights.

“It kind of creates that chaos, and it’s more exciting than when you just walk it up,” she said. “It’s kind of fun to watch them, because there’s been a number of games where we’ve created 30-something turnovers.”

Pete Warner

Pete graduated from Bangor High School in 1980 and earned a B.S. in Journalism (Advertising) from the University of Maine in 1986. He grew up fishing at his family's camp on Sebago Lake but didn't take...