For a lot of college basketball teams, the start of the second semester is like hitting a reset button. For teams like the Colby College and University of Maine at Farmington men’s teams, it’s a time to recapture the momentum held before the holiday break.

“The foundation of what you built, your principles, always erodes a little bit. Certainly your conditioning falls off, no matter what they do on their own,” said Colby coach Damien Strahorn, whose team is 8-2 but hasn’t played since Dec. 8.

UMF went into the break with a 6-3 record, and hasn’t played since a loss at St. Joseph’s College on Dec. 13.

“They (the NCAA) give us five days before the first game back to practice. You hope the kids have stayed in reasonable shape,” UMF coach Dick Meader said.

In the past, Colby has taken part in a post-Christmas tournament. This season, Strahorn elected to forgo the chance to play two games for more practice time leading into always-tough New England Small College Athletic Conference play. The Mules open conference play Friday at home against Tufts, and host rival Bates on Saturday.

“We have seven practices leading into our game Friday,” Strahorn said. “It felt like in the last couple of years we didn’t have time to reprepare, especially with NESCAC games starting… I feel pretty good with where we are. They were pretty tired. We pushed them. We had a day off two days ago, then two good practices. I’m excited about Friday and Saturday.”

Both UMF and Colby have enjoyed success by finding offensive depth. Five UMF players average at least 10 points per game, led by junior guard Amir Moss (18.8 ppg) and junior forward Riley Robinson (16.8 ppg). Colby has five players averaging at least 11 points per game, with junior guard Sam Jefferson setting the pace at 16.6 points.

“We had a good first semester,” Meader said. “Hopefully, we’ll get a good start to this semester. Offensively we were pretty good. The guys moved the ball pretty well. Defensively we need to step it up.”

The Beavers are 4-0 in North Atlantic Conference play, and open the second semester with a non-conference game at Lasell. After a game at Colby next Tuesday, UMF resumes NAC play with a road trip to Northern Vermont-Lyndon and Northern Vermont-Johnson on Jan. 11-12. The Beavers have been led by the upperclassmen thus far, but Meader said as the season progresses, more will be expected of the team’s six freshmen.

“There will be an opportunity for other guys to step in. We’ll need younger guys to step in,” Meader said.

At Colby, Strahorn expects his team to build off its strong start, just as it built off its strong fall workouts.

“We’ve had different guys step up over the course of the first 10 games. We have some firepower and different guys who can put the ball in the basket, and I think we’re defending better than we ever have. Now it’s a test against the NESCAC and trying to build on it,” Strahorn said.

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It’s nothing but America East Conference games the rest of the season for the University of Maine women and men’s basketball teams. The women opened conference play Wednesday with a 67-46 win over New Hampshire. The men open America East play on Saturday at Maryland-Baltimore County, the team which shocked all of college basketball last spring when it became the first 16 seed to beat a one when it knocked off Virginia.

The win over New Hampshire was a return to form for Maine, which after a strong start stumbled a bit with four consecutive losses. Now 8-6, the Black Bears host Maryland-Baltimore County at 1 p.m., Saturday at the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor.

The Maine men have struggled so far, going 2-13, with one of those wins over UMaine-Machias. With a new coach in Richard Barron, the Black Bears knew this would be a rebuilding season. Eight players have started at least one game. Only junior guard Isaiah White and junior forward Andrew Fleming have started all 15 games for the Black Bears.

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Messalonskee High School grad Nick Mayo is currently 13th in the nation in scoring. The Eastern Kentucky senior averages 23.3 points per game. Mayo also is among the nation’s leaders in free throw percentage, making 90 percent of his foul shots (90 of 100), good for 24th-best in all of Division I.

Mayo and the Colonels were 7-6 going into Thursday night’s Ohio Valley Conference opener at Austin Peay. For Maine fans hoping to see Mayo in action, most of Eastern Kentucky’s OVC games are available on ESPN+, a subscription service offered by ESPN.

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]

Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM

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