WATERVILLE — Maybe, as Yusuf Iman said, he was motivated by the technical foul he received just before the end of the first half. Maybe he was motivated by Thomas College’s special defense against him.
Whatever it was, UMaine-Farmington’s opponents can only hope it doesn’t carry over to the rest of the season. Iman not only scored 23 points on 8-of-9 shooting, he directed an offense that shot 63 percent from the floor as the Beavers pulled away for a 94-72 North Atlantic Conference men’s basketball victory Saturday afternoon.
“That’s the kind of Yusuf that we watched him in high school, and we were all like, ‘Geez, he’s going to be able to do that in college,’ ” Thomas coach T.J. Maines said. “That might have the best game he’s played in three years. I thought that he exploited a lot of stuff we gave to him in the halfcourt.”
Maranacook graduate Ben Johnson added 25 points and 12 rebounds for UMF, and Andrew Dickey scored a game-high 27 points. Thomas had 11 players score, but only Jarrad DeVaughn (14) and Stanley Greene, Jr. (12) were in double figures.
The two teams couldn’t be more different in their philosophies. Thomas runs players in and out, and looks to push the ball at every opportunity. UMF goes with a set seven-man rotation, and tries to patiently get the ball inside to Johnson, a 6-foot-8 center who is averaging 21.7 points per game.
In an attempt to throw the Beavers (10-3) off their rhythm and break up the Iman-to-Johnson combination, Thomas (5-7) double-teamed Iman in the backcourt and forced him to give up the ball. UMF compensated and was still able to get Iman the ball, where he drained 3-pointers or took defenders off the dribble.
While UMF’s offense was clicking, the Terriers were hitting seven of 17 3-pointers in the first half, and reasonably held Johnson under control. The Terriers were within 40-39 at halftime after Iman lost the ball out of bounds and was hit with a technical foul for his reaction from the bench.
“(Halftime) definitely gave me an opportunity to cool down and reflect,” Iman said. “My behavior, and the outlook it showed to the team, kind of reflects negatively. So I used that as motivation for the second half — to be more positive, and turn my attitude around, and use it to help my game on the court. The technical was when I was off the court, which is just frustration, so I need to be able to use that anger and energy on the court.”
Thomas hung in early in the second half, and trailed only 54-52 when Johnson picked up his third foul with 14:10 to play in the game. After a timeout about 90 seconds later, UMF led 60-54 and Johnson was on the bench. Rather than Thomas making its move, the Beavers extended their lead, and were up 65-56 when Johnson returned midway through the half.
“To go (four) minutes without him, and gaining — you can’t ask for more,” UMF coach Dick Meader said.
UMF scored on 15 of 16 possessions at one point in the second half, and Thomas couldn’t keep that kind of pace. The Terriers shot 43 percent in the first half and 26 percent after the break.
“The first half, we did a lot of the things that we talked about during the week,” Maines said. “They play under everything, and they switch all the stuff out front, and you have to attack that a certain way. The first half, we did a pretty good job of it. When we shot 3s, our feet were set. We finished things off.
“In the second half, we did that for about the first four minutes. Then the intensity level that we need to play with on offense and defense wasn’t there. We kind of settled, I think, a little bit, for some shots that weren’t great shots.”
Matt DiFilippo — 861-9243