Coming into the season, the University of Maine at Farmington men’s basketball team had a scoring void. Gone was 6-foot-8 center Ben Johnson and his 17 points per game. Also gone was Andrew Dickey, a 6-foot-2 forward, and his 16.9 points per game. Both graduated, leaving the Beavers’ frontcourt game thin.

Wilton native Nick Hilton, a 6-4 forward, is doing his best to make up for the graduation of Johnson and Dickey. A junior, Hilton joined the UMF starting five this season, and going into Tuesday night’s game at North Atlantic Conference rival Thomas College, Hilton averaged 12 points per game. His 7.6 rebounds per game are fourth best in the conference. Hilton’s 84.6 percentage from the free throw line (33-39) is also fourth best in the NAC.

In the Beavers’ 67-60 win over Colby on Saturday, Hilton scored a game-high 22 points, matching his scoring high this season (he also scored 22 points in a 72-55 win over Maine Maritime Academy on Dec. 2).

“Nick has really matured into a very versatile and good player,” UMF head coach Dick Meader said.

Hilton played in 28 games last season, averaging 4.6 points and 4 rebounds per game. As a freshman in 2012-13, Hilton averaged 3 points and 2.3 rebounds coming off the bench in 27 games. Knowing more would be expected this season, Hilton worked on improving.

“My post-up game is something I worked on,” Hilton said.

At 6-4 and 185 pounds, Hilton routinely plays against bigger and stronger opponents, and he needs those post moves to create his shot.

“He’s getting guys up in the air and going by them,” Meader said. “He wants to get the ball down there. He’s playing under control and with poise.”

His size isn’t a big disadvantage if you play smartly, Hilton said.

“You’ve just got to battle. They can’t mow you over,” Hilton said.

Hilton isn’t playing on the wing as much as he used to, although Meader said Hilton could play shooting guard, either forward position, or center. When the Beavers break up into positional work at practice, Hilton routinely is with the big men and assistant coach Jim Bessey, his high school coach at Mt. Blue.

“He’s learning to play inside the lane,” Meader said. “He’s not hesitant to get in there with strong players.”

And Hilton is playing a lot. He leads the Beavers in minutes per game, at just under 34. Wary he might tire Hilton out, Meader hinted that those minutes could come down.

“We’re running him into the ground,” Meader said.

There are a couple areas Meader would like to see Hilton improve. One is size.

“If he could add another 15 pounds of muscle, he’d really be very dangerous,” Meader said.

The other is shooting. Hilton’s shooting percentage so far this season is 42.7 percent, a little low for a player taking so many shots inside the lane. Part of that stems from gym renovations at UMF in the offseason, Meader said, which kept players from getting as much court time as normal.

“We didn’t have our gym until December,” Meader said.

Going into Tuesday’s game at Thomas, UMF was 2-1 in conference play (3-6 overall), and in fourth place in the NAC standings. The top six teams make the conference tournament this season, Hilton said, and his goal is to help make sure UMF is one of them.

“If you’re not playing for a championship, why play?” he said.

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

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Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM