FARMINGTON — The University of Maine at Farmington men’s basketball coach Dick Meader keeps seeing the team the Beavers can be.
The one Meader has now is developing a reputation for closing out games that could go either way. On Saturday against Colby-Sawyer, a nine-point first-half deficit turned into a runaway UMF win as the Beavers posted a 66-52 victory at Dearborn Gymnasium.
Maranacook graduate Ben Johnson led UMF with 21 points and 12 rebounds. Garrett Clemmer (12 points) and Andrew Dickey (10) also scored in double figures, while Dickey had nine rebounds and Yusuf Iman and Sam Leal had five assists apiece. Colby-Sawyer, meanwhile, shot 32 percent from the floor.
“We just play committed team defense,” Johnson said. “We’re not going to let them hit open 3s. We’re not going to let them get layups. Teams that shoot 50 percent normally, or 55 percent, they’ll come into our gym and shoot 35 percent. We’re not going to let them have easy shots.”
UMF (7-1) went with a zone defense to control the inside play of Colby-Sawyer’s Mike Dias and Koang Thok. The Chargers (2-6) responded by jacking up 3-pointers. They hit five in the first half, the last by Zach Bean (17 points) to give Colby-Sawyer a 25-16 lead with 4:44 left in the half.
“We took a timeout, and Coach told us to start playing within ourselves,” Johnson said. “Basically, we just slowed the ball down. We started getting it inside. It’s tough to get it inside right off the bat. So we just kept working it inside, and eventually, they got tired.”
The Beavers ran off the last 13 points of the half to lead 29-25 at the break. They were more patient on offense after that timeout, working the ball inside to Johnson for a shot within five feet, or making a series of passes and drives to free up a 3-point shooter.
When the Beavers got their lead to 54-36 with under 10 minutes left, they began using almost all of the 35-second shot clock on every possession. UMF has the ball handlers to do that, and with the 6-foot-8 Johnson inside, they had the best rebounder on the floor.
As for Dias and Thok, who came in averaging a combined 38 points per game, they scored a total of eight, on 3-for-19 shooting.
“It was the zone taking away Dias a little bit,” Meader said. “The ball didn’t get in to him very often. So that was good. And Thok? No more than he had a bad shooting night, probably.”
While the Beavers found their offensive rhythm in the second half, Colby-Sawyer actually took more 3-pointers than 2-pointers (31-26). The Chargers tried to rally by taking quick 3s late in the game, but never got closer than 12 points.
“The second half, and at the end of the first half, we did a much better job of getting to shooters,” Meader said.
Asked to grade his team’s performance through eight games, Meader said he would give the Beavers a B or B-plus.
“In all honesty, I didn’t expect to be 7-1 at this time,” he said. “We’re getting used to grinding out games, playing with a lead. The only reason I wouldn’t say an A is because we could do much better. But certainly, the results are worthy of an A.”
Matt DiFilippo — 861-9243