After a 72-58 non-conference loss to Bates on Thursday, the men’s basketball team stands at 3-4 heading into its final game of the fall semester on Sunday at UMaine Farmington. Ahead of the beginning of conference play after winter break, the challenge for the team will be gaining momentum to start strong once it returns.
Before Thursday’s game, Head Coach Tim Gilbride said that the team was optimistic and motivated heading into this season’s first game against a NESCAC opponent.
“We’ve improved since the beginning of the year, and I think that it’s a positive trend,” said Gilbride. “I’m hoping that that continues as we head into games for second semester.”
According to captain Stephen Ferraro ’20, the team learned from its early-season losses, including a 78-77 overtime loss to the University of Southern Maine which put the team at 1-2 after the first three games. However, despite those setbacks, the team looks forward to starting the next semester with renewed determination.
“We’re definitely headed in the right direction,” said Ferraro. “Even in the losses, I think there are good signs of a lot of potential within our team. [With] more practice and more time to work together, [we will] build our team chemistry.”
The team routinely profiles other teams to review opponents’ strategic strengths and weaknesses. Gilbride said Thursday’s game against Bates could serve as a good future reference and give insight into Bates’ style of play.
Gilbride added that coaching the team means balancing individual strengths and group efficiency.
“The fun challenge is trying to maximize the strength of individuals … and figure out what combination of players work best together,” said Gilbride.
Despite the departure of key players in last year’s graduating class, Gilbride remains satisfied with the general direction of the team and praised the efforts of players from all class years.
“We’re trying to blend together some new players with some veteran players,” said Gilbride. “We have guys who can step up and fill different roles … some younger guys contributing with some older guys. I’m happy with the progress we’ve made.”
Gilbride emphasized that each year’s team makeup is unique, and this means adapting in accordance with the team’s distinctive personality in any given year.
“Every year is completely different. It’s interesting because there have been years where you return the exact same list of players and yet … the whole complexion of the team changes for whatever reason,” said Gilbride. “So you really have to look at each year anew and … maximize whatever strengths that team might be showing.”
Ferraro said that this year’s team is more cohesive and has improved maneuvers specialized for different opponents predicated upon past experience. He stressed that developing a group identity is instrumental to improving games and creating solidarity.
“We are [still] forming our identity, and hopefully with more practice and more games, that identity will come together,” said Ferraro.
Despite a 4-6 NESCAC finish last season that saw the team miss out on the conference playoffs, the Polar Bears are optimistic that this year can yield different results.
“The beauty of the conference is that there is not much difference between the top teams and the bottom teams,” said Gilbride. “It’s not like whoever the bottom team is can’t upset the top teams.”
Ferraro said the conference’s strength pushes the players to be more ambitious in their endeavors.
“I think it’s just tougher, but it brings out the best in us,” said Ferraro.
The team’s final game before Winter Break is on Sunday at 2 p.m. away at UMaine Farmington.