It’s one day in the life of two college basketball teams at the same university. Two basketball teams that share practice facilities and training rooms, watching their seasons veer off in opposite directions during the Covid-19 pandemic.

In Orono, the University of Maine men’s basketball team is coming to grips with the fact that its season is over. Saturday morning, the University announced the team, which due to Covid-19 protocols and contact tracing has not been able to practice or play a game since January 17, opted out of the rest of the season.

The UMaine men’s basketball team concludes its season with a 2-7 record.

“To give you some context, we’ve spent more time in quarantine and isolation than we have practicing since the season started,” coach Richard Barron said in a Zoom with media Saturday afternoon. “We ran out of time and we ran out of players… The stress of trying to wait each week and constantly postponing the return has kind of caught up to everybody.”

Ending the season now, after just nine games, is not the outcome the Black Bears wanted. After a positive test the day before they were to open the season against Virginia at Mohegan Sun the day before Thanksgiving, the Black Bears had five games cancelled. From mid-December through mid-January, they got in a series of games without a hitch.

But this season, there’s always hitch. As game after game was postponed, and the team couldn’t practice with members either in quarantine or isolation, they knew this was coming. The team had an honest discussion, sophomore guard Steph Ingo said, and knew this difficult decision was the one they had to make.

“Having stopped and go, and not really know if we’re going to play next weekend, or the weekend after,” Ingo said. “Most of this was out of our control. We wished we could’ve controlled it more, but being able to put this behind us and try to look forward, that’s really important for our program.”

In Stony Brook, New York, the University of Maine women’s basketball team lost to Stony Brook, 59-54. The loss snapped the Black Bears nine-game win streak. One loss doesn’t derail a season. Unlike their friends and counterparts on the men’s team, the UMaine women have so far avoided a Covid-19 outbreak or exposure, and play on.

This was the game the America East Conference has waited for since last March, when the Maine vs Stony Brook matchup in the conference championship game was cancelled in the early days of the pandemic. Maine and Stony Brook are the top two teams in the conference, and are fighting for the top seed in the upcoming conference tournament. Saturday, the Black Bears never found their offensive groove, going 20 for 62 from the field, including 4 for 16 from 3-point range.

Blanca Millan, the best player in America East, shot 4 for 18 for the Black Bears. Dor Saar, the best point guard in the league, shot 1 for 11. Stony Brook allows an average of just 50.2 points per game, fourth-best in the nation. That said, Maine missed a lot of shots it normally makes. Open layups that should fall did not.

“When we get 20 more shots than the opponent, we should probably win the game, but we didn’t. They made the bigger plays down the stretch than we did,” Maine head coach Amy Vachon said. “They (Stony Brook) are a good defensive team, obviously. They’re tops in the country in points allowed. To say they didn’t have anything to do with it would not be fair. I also think we missed a lot of shots. We missed wide-open layups. We went 10 for 15 at the free throw line. You just can’t leave those points out there. You can’t have your two best players go 5 for 29. You know, that hurts.”

It hurts, but the Black Bears could go back to their hotel and study film. They could put together a plan for Sunday afternoon’s rematch with the Seawolves.  There are no skull sessions for the men’s team. No shootarounds. No practices.

“I don’t think anybody was happy about the decision. I don’t think that would be the right way to characterize it, but I think everybody felt that it was the correct decision and we needed to do it,” Barron said.

The men’s basketball team will have time later to examine the good things that happened in their shortened season. There was improvement. Right now that would be strumming an exposed nerve.

“I think down the line, we can look back more at the season and see how we were competitive in most games and how a lot of different guys showed flashes. That’s stuff we’re going to build on. Right now, it’s still very recent,” Ingo said.

The UMaine women have a few hours to break down what happened and get over their loss. The loss suffered by the men’s basketball team will linger and sting a bit longer.

 

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]

Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM

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