BANGOR, Maine — That the opponent was a small-college program from within the state’s borders didn’t matter much to the University of Maine men’s basketball team.
After 10 games of largely major-college opponents on the road to help fund the athletic department through guaranteed payouts from the likes of Boston College, Texas Tech and Georgetown or narrow losses to Dartmouth, Fordham and Sacred Heart, the team’s 104-51 victory over UMaine-Machias at the Cross Insurance Center was a welcome change of pace for the Black Bears.
“I think it’s important for this team to see some good things happen for their confidence,” said UMaine coach Bob Walsh. “When you’re losing close games like we’ve lost, as much as you talk about mental toughness and battling a lot of time you’re in recovery mode.
“Obviously we had an advantage in size and depth but our guys need to feel good about what they’re doing and it’s hard to feel good about it when you come up short.”
UMaine-Machias (5-8) kept pace with UMaine for the first 5 1/2 minutes, hanging within 12-9 on a layup by Jesse Gray.
But UMaine outscored the Clippers 41-12 during the remainder of the period to build a 53-21 halftime lead that wasn’t threatened during the game’s final 20 minutes.
Two players whose early season efforts have been slowed by injuries showed signs of being ready to become more major contributors as UMaine’s conference schedule looms three weeks away, as sophomore wings Isaiah White and Dusan Majstorovic each scored 20 points in their most extended minutes of the season to date.
White, who started the Black Bears’ season opener at Boston College but left after just four minutes of play with a foot injury, shot 8 of 11 from the field in just his second game back in the UMaine rotation. Majstorovic made 7 of 14 shots, including three 3-pointers.
“It felt good to be back,” said White. “I was just excited to help contribute to the team.”
Junior point guard Aaron Calixte and sophomore guard Danny Evans added 13 points apiece while sophomore guard Dennis Ashley scored 11 and freshman center Miks Antoms contributed nine rebounds, two steals and a blocked shot.
Junior forward Travonne Thompson scored 14 points and grabbed 15 rebounds to pace a UMM team that includes six freshmen and 10 players overall in their first season on the roster. Senior guard Darius Clark added a team-high 16 points for UMM and Gray finished with 12.
“It’s all a learning experience for us,” said UMM coach Troy Alley, whose team will travel to Brooklyn, N.Y., next Sunday to face three-time defending U.S. Collegiate Athletic Association champion Berkeley College. “We’re young, and just a chance to play against a team like Maine with that speed and size can’t do anything but help us.”
UMaine now faces six consecutive road games — beginning at Atlantic 10 Conference staple Saint Joseph’s of Pennsylvania next Sunday.
The Black Bears won’t play again at home until a Jan. 10, 2018, America East matchup against Maryland Baltimore County.
“When you’re injured and your losing close games it’s a battle to improve,” said Walsh. “Hopefully this is a game we can feel good about and we can go into practice this week during finals really focused on getting better.”