BANGOR — The University of Maine men’s basketball team lost another game Wednesday night, which brings up an interesting question:

If the Black Bears cannot beat the Blue Devils of Central Connecticut State, what are they going to do against the Duke Blue Devils?

Maine played little to no defense Wednesday night as Central Connecticut cruised to an 82-61 victory in front of an estimated crowd of 200 at the Cross Insurance Center.

Andrew Fleming, the 6-foot-7 freshman from Oxford Hills High, paced Maine with 20 points and eight rebounds.

The Black Bears (2-5) begin preparations for Saturday’s game against No. 5 Duke (7-1) at Cameron Indoor Stadium in Durham, North Carolina

Cameron will be louder than Cross Insurance Center – where the biggest cheers came from the Central Connecticut bench – and the competition will be significantly better.

“I just thought it was a terrible performance,” Maine Coach Bob Walsh said. “It was really brutal offensively and defensively.

“I have to do a better job of making sure what we do every day (in practice) translates to the game. I don’t know why there’s a disconnect there.”

Central Connecticut (2-3) came to Bangor on a three-game losing streak and little success against the Black Bears. Maine led this series 10-3 with the Blue Devils’ last win in 1986.

“We were two teams striving for a win,” said first-year Central Connecticut coach Donyell Marshall, the former UConn All-American, NBA player and Maine Red Claws assistant coach (2011-12).

“We played the way we wanted to play. We got easier shots today.”

Maine couldn’t stop Central Connecticut, which shot 59 percent. The Blue Devils passed inside on Maine’s man-to-man defense. When the Black Bears went zone, Central Connecticut drove in and kicked out the basketball for open 3-pointers (10 of 14)

“We felt Maine lacked defensively,” said Blue Devils forward Mustafa Jones, one of the six players in double figures. “Their defensive intensity wasn’t up to par.”

Walsh agreed.

“We didn’t guard them the whole game,” he said. “They got the shots they wanted on almost every possession.”

If there was any consolation, it was watching Fleming muscle his way inside. As Walsh tried to find a working combination of players, he kept Fleming out there (team-leading 32 minutes).

“He gets better every day,” Walsh said. “I think he’s getting more comfortable every day with how good he is and how good he can be.

“We didn’t take him out (because) he competes at a high level and it really matters to him. You can tell by the way he plays. I’m really proud of him.”

Fleming was in no mood to gloat about his best scoring performance as a collegian. His quick adjustment comes from “just doing what the coaches want me to do and be aggressive,” he said.

“I’m learning from others and just trying to come ready to play every day.”

Offensively, the Black Bears hit some 3-pointers (4 of 16) and a few jumpers but mainly relied on Fleming.

He hit 8 of 13 from the field and 4 of 7 free throws.

“He was a good scorer and a pretty aggressive player,” said Jones, who is also 6-7 and sometimes guarded Fleming, as did 6-8 senior Tafari Whittingham.

Central Connecticut took a 41-24 halftime lead. With 13:30 left in the game, Fleming slammed down a put-back, closing to 50-38.

The Blue Devils responded with a 3-pointer. Maine never got closer than 12 points.

Maine will be back at practice Thursday, then early Friday before flying to North Carolina.

Are the Black Bears ready for Duke? Walsh is searching for a lineup.

“I still haven’t figured out who we should have out there and how to make it work,” he said.


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