The University of Maine men’s basketball team went through its final preseason dress rehearsal at the Cross Insurance Center on Sunday, and the experience reflected the fact that the Black Bears are a work in progress with their regular-season debut just days away.
Senior forward Andrew Fleming filled the stat sheet with 22 points, nine rebounds, five assists, four blocked shots and two steals as UMaine held of McGill University of Montreal 70-63 in Bangor.
Senior guard Sergio El Darwich added 13 points, eight rebounds and three assists while another of the team’s four returning active players from a year ago, sophomore forward Vilgot Larsson, contributed 10 points and six assists.
But the nature of coach Richard Barron’s 15-player roster — which includes four players back after sitting out last season as redshirts along with seven freshmen — has the team struggling for consistency with its first countable game looming at home Wednesday against Division I newcomer Merrimack.
“We hit our stride a little bit in the second half,” Barron said. “The first half in particular, our shot selection was really good, our turnovers were really bad.”
UMaine hit 66.7 percent (18 of 27) of its field-goal attempts before intermission, but the taller and rangier Black Bears struggled at times against McGill’s physical defensive pressure, which led to many of their 10 turnovers during the first half and 22 for the game.
“This game was really good for us in terms of the size and the physicality,” Barron said. “McGill’s a tough team. They’re a team that’s been playing basketball for a while now so it was really important for us to get out there.
“We’ve got to see more presses and traps,” he added. “We haven’t had a lot of experience with that yet this year, even in practice.”
McGill is 3-8 in a preseason schedule that began with four August losses to NCAA Division I opponents South Florida, Valparaiso, Quinnipiac and Albany, a rival of UMaine from America East.
The Canadian guests led UMaine 25-18 midway through the first half before the Black Bears went on a 23-4 run ignited by the second of two 3-pointers during the game from freshman guard Taylor Schildroth of Blue Hill and George Stevens Academy.
Fleming then asserted himself, with the All-America East standout converting a three-point play off a lob from Nedeljko Prijovic and scoring again off an El Darwich feed as the Black Bears regained a 26-25 advantage.
McGill briefly took the lead before UMaine went on a 15-2 run that included eight points from Larsson and three transition drives by El Darwich.
UMaine’s advantage was 41-34 at intermission, and while McGill remained a willing combatant for the full 40 minutes — drawing within one point twice during the final four minutes of play — Fleming buried a key hook shot that led to a three-point play and Larsson made three late free throws as the Black Bears withstood the challenge.