BANGOR — The University of Maine men’s basketball team capped off its first preseason under new head coach Richard Barron on Thursday night with an 82-40 exhibition victory over the University of Maine at Presque Isle at the Cross Insurance Center.
Sophomore guard Misha Yagodin paced a balanced UMaine offense with 14 points on 6-of-9 shooting, junior guard Isaiah White added 12 points, junior forward Andrew Fleming had 11 points and five rebounds and sophomore forward Vilgot Larsson scored 10 points as the Black Bears shot 54.1 percent (33 of 61) from the field.
“We came into this evening just wanting to get better,” said UMaine senior forward Ilija Stojiljkovic, who contributed four points and grabbed six rebounds. “That’s our approach every day and tonight was the same. I feel like we did that. We executed. We played at our pace, we didn’t play at the opponent’s pace.
“I think there’s a lot we have to work on but tonight was a step in the right direction.”
Of particular note on this evening was UMaine’s matchup zone defense, which limited UMPI to 23.2 percent (13 of 56) shooting from the field and induced 26 turnovers by the Division III Owls.
“Obviously we had a big size advantage over them and that makes a huge difference, and there will be games where we’re on the other side of that this season when we’re playing teams that that are much bigger than us,” said Barron, the former UMaine women’s basketball coach. “But still I think our positioning was pretty good, some of our rotations were on point and some of them were a little slow and that gives us film to go back and study and be able to point things out.”
UMaine opens its regular season with a three-game western road trip that begins Tuesday at the University of Denver. The Black Bears then visit the University of Utah next Thursday before concluding the trip Nov. 10 at the University of San Francisco.
The Black Bears’ first regular-season home game is set for Wednesday, Nov. 28, against Princeton.
Shyquinn Dix, a 5-foot-11 sophomore guard, scored a game-high 17 points for UMPI, which is idle until Nov. 9 when the Owls face Norwich in the first round of the Charlie Ryan Tournament at Thomas College in Waterville.
UMaine’s overall height and length — the Black Bears’ starting lineup was 6-8, 6-7, 6-7, 6-5 and 6-4 — overwhelmed UMPI defensively early in the contest. UMaine held the Owls without a point until freshman guard Griffin Guerrette of Presque Isle buried a 3-pointer from the left of the key 7:24 into the contest.
That came after UMaine scored the first 11 points of the game despite a somewhat sluggish offensive start of its own.
But the Black Bears soon picked it up, initially from the perimeter where Yagodin made two 3-pointers and another jumper, all from the right wing.
His second 3-pointer ignited a run of 13 unanswered points as UMaine built its lead to 32-8 on a free throw by junior guard Sergio El Darwich with 2:59 left until intermission.
By halftime the Black Bears’ advantage was 38-13 behind Yagodin’s 10 points and seven apiece from El Darwich and White.