Just like last season, the Colby men’s basketball team heads into the winter break coming off back-to-back losses to Bates and Bowdoin. Even though last year’s games were closer, the Mules have reason to feel that they’re moving forward.

For starters, Colby is 4-3 this season, compared to a 2-6 mark at last year’s break. The Mules are also out-performing their opponents in points per game, field goal percentage, free throw percentage, rebounds, assists, steals, and blocked shots.

“It’s a great group of guys,” Colby coach Damien Strahorn said. “I’ve been really pleased with just the competitiveness of practices. We’ve been able to adjust things coming from where we were a year ago to now, and tweak some things, and try to tailor it to the some of the guys and some of the improvements and developments we’ve made. The process has been a very enjoyable part of coming down here and seeing these guys grow and get better.”

The Mules have four players who are averaging more than 10 points per game, and all four are sophomores. Chris Hudnut leads the way at 18.3 ppg, while Patrick Stewart is averaging 13.0 ppg, pulling down a team-high 6.9 rebounds per game, and shooting 47 percent from three-point range.

Stewart’s accuracy from long range is only second best on the Colby roster, because Ryan Lann is at 12.6 ppg and is shooting 57.7 percent (15 for 26) from long distance. Lann would rank ninth in the country in Division III if he had enough 3-pointers to qualify.

Luke Westman is the other top scorer, averaging 11.6 points and 4.9 assists per game. Westman is also shooting 61 percent from the floor and 87 percent from the line.

“They’re still young,” Strahorn said of his sophomore class, “but they’ve taken some really positive steps together. We’ve got to continue to push them along and certainly try and find some combinations and some lineups that are more consistent.”

• • •

The UMaine-Augusta women’s basketball team was able to bring only seven players to a tournament in Vermont this weekend. They also had to play on back-to-back days, and the second of those games was against Bates.

UMA did much better than most would have expected. The Moose were actually down only six points with four minutes left in the first half, and ended up losing, 104-83.

“We just had an amazing game,” UMA coach Jennifer Laney said. “The players really came together — strides beyond what we had at the beginning of the season.”

To give you some comparison, both teams had played UMaine-Machias earlier this season. UMA won by six, and Bates won by 86 (113-27).

UMA was left with seven players this weekend because of injuries and players having to work. But Laney’s thing is fitness — she’s a certified personal trainer, and the staff associate for fitness and athletics at UMA — and she believes her team is especially well-conditioned.

“I feel that we’re one of the most conditioned teams in the conference, against any opponent,” Laney said. “Going out and being able to play those two games in two nights, I think that really proves it.”

Indeed, sophomore Arreonte Lee is averaging 39.4 minutes per game, and freshman Jamie Plummer (a Richmond grad) is at 36.6. Junior guard Jenn Lola of Monmouth has played at least 38 minutes five times in the last eight games.

Lola is averaging an even 22 points per night over those eight games. She scored her 1,000th career point Tuesday night to become the third women’s player in UMA history to reach the mark in their career. The others are Ashley Peaslee and Katie Poirier, who both hit the mark during the 2011-12 season.

Even with some of the starters playing major minutes, Laney feels one of UMA’s strengths is its versatility. The Moose are 5-6 after Tuesday night’s win over UMaine-Machias.

“We’ve got such a strong foundation of players,” Laney said. “Really seeing them come together has made the difference for us. We have so many different role players, that really it can be anybody, any night, doing anything.”

The Moose could add another impact player in January. Cony grad Kristi Violette is on the roster as a senior, but has not played a game this season due to a broken wrist.

“She actually went out the very first night of practice,” Laney said. “She’d be a big help going into second semester.”

• • •

There are two big games in South Portland tonight at Southern Maine Community College as the women’s and men’s teams face Central Maine Community College in a doubleheader beginning at 6.

All four teams are undefeated in conference play. The CMCC women feature two local players among their top three scorers. Freshman Gabby Foy, a Mt. Blue grad, is averaging 14.9 points per game, while freshman Sam Bruce of Madison is averaging 13.4 ppg. Freshmen Janelle Thornley (Mt. View) and Courtney Taylor (Madison) have played in every game for the Mustangs.

For SMCC, junior Jaimi Poland of Skowhegan is averaging 5.6 ppg, and New Sharon native Zyrah Giustra is at 3.9 ppg.

For the CMCC men, Valley grad Carrington Miller is scoring 9.4 ppg. The SMCC men have two freshmen from Waterville in Josh Gormley (4.0 ppg) and Jordan DeRosby (3.2 ppg).

The four teams have a combined record of 42-4 overall and 26-0 in the Yankee Small College Conference.

Matt DiFilippo — 861-9243[email protected]Twitter: @Matt_DiFilippo

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