When Tyler McFarland describes his first nine games with the Bentley University men’s basketball team, it sounds like the rugged 6-foot-5 freshman from Rockport (Camden Hills/Cushing Academy) is struggling mightily.

“There isn’t one area where I’m real strong right now,” McFarland said Tuesday. “It’s been a challenge. I’m playing against older, experienced, strong forwards. They’ve all been in the league and know how to win games and be successful.

“Right now I’m working on attaining a certain assertiveness as well as decision-making skill on offense. I feel like at times I’m holding our offense back. I’ve turned the ball over too much this year and I need to work on cutting down those turnovers.”

The truth is he’s already become a go-to force for the young Falcons (5-4).

McFarland leads the team in scoring (14.3 ppg), rebounding (8.0), free-throw percentage (82.8 percent), minutes played and blocks. He has three double-doubles.

He has earned two of the past three conference Rookie of the Week honors, the second coming on the heels of a 22-point, 9-of-13 shooting effort Saturday against Stonehill that included his first dunk and his first collegiate 3-pointer.

“He’s the real deal, on the court and off the court,” Bentley Coach Jay Lawson said. “The kid’s got a chance to have a real exceptional career at this level.”

Bentley is one of the premier programs in New England regardless of division. Lawson, in his 22nd year, has 17 straight winning seasons. Prior to last year’s 15-12 record, the Falcons had gone to the NCAA tournament seven straight seasons, winning or sharing the conference title six times. Included were consecutive 32-1 and 34-1 seasons.

Lawson said one reason for Bentley’s success is that in most seasons he doesn’t need to count on freshmen. Not so this year.

“This is the youngest team we’ve had in 30 years,” Lawson said.

Former Maine high school stars have been the beneficiary of the youth movement.

McFarland has been joined in the starting lineup each night by freshman 6-foot-6 guard Alex Furness of Wells (7.0 ppg, 3.9 rpg). Sophomore forward Andrew Shaw of Saco (Thornton Academy) has become the team’s top substitute, and is averaging 6.7 points and 3.6 rebounds. Former Maine Sunday Telegram Player of the Year Keegan Hyland, a sophomore guard from South Portland, is still recovering from a broken foot.

Shaw was one of the Northeast-10’s top 3-point shooters as a freshman but was shooting below 25 percent through eight games. On Saturday he hit 4 of 6 3-pointers in a 17-point effort.

“Shaw, he’s coming off the bench for us now but playing more minutes than some starters,” Lawson said. “Furness and Shaw are very much big pieces for us. Shaw is a very targeted player based on his (all-rookie) freshman year.”

This is not the first time the Maine players have played together. McFarland, Shaw and Furness spent two seasons with MB Nation AAU Basketball Club, coached by Mike Woodbury. McFarland said they would speculate what it might be like to play together in college, never thinking it would actually happen.

“It’s pretty exciting to think we all ended up in the same spot,” McFarland said.

MEN’S BASKETBALL

Husson University senior Eric Modica of Kittery (Traip Academy) scored 14 points in a recent win against Green Mountain College, adding three rebounds, three assists and a block. The 6-foot-3 guard is leading a balanced scoring effort with 12.3 points per game. Husson (3-3) is off until Dec. 29.

WOMEN’S BASKETBALL

Caroline Hamilton of North Yarmouth (Greely), a 5-foot-8 first-year guard at Oberlin College in Ohio, made all five of her 3-point attempts to score 15 points in just 19 minutes in Saturday’s win against Alleghany. Hamilton is averaging 9.8 minutes per game for Oberlin (6-5), appearing in 10 games.

n  Diana Manduca of Portland (Deering) scored 20 of Colby College’s 46 points in a recent 69-46 loss to Roger Williams. A senior tri-captain, Manduca is leading the Mules (4-4) in scoring at 13.9 points per game after Saturday’s loss to Bates. She scored 14 in that game.

HOCKEY

Senior goalie Nick Broadwater of Portland has been pivotal in pushing Hobart College to No. 4 in the nation in the most recent USCHO.com and D3hockey.com national polls. Broadwater is ranked fourth nationally in goals-against average (1.36) and third in save percentage (.948). Broadwater is 8-1-2 and Hobart is off to its best start in school history, at 11-1-2 overall and 5-0-1 in the ECAC West entering the holiday break. Broadwater has been named the ECAC West goalie of the week three times this season. On Saturday he made a season-high 40 saves in a 3-2 overtime win against No. 2 Oswego.

SWIMMING

Keegan Goan of Westbrook continued his assault on the Elms College record book over the Dec. 1-2 weekend. Competing at the GNAC Invitational, Goan set a GNAC and school record in the 100-yard butterfly (53.67) and a GNAC record in the 50 fly (24.21). He was part of the 400 medley relay team that set GNAC and Elms records with a winning time of 3:48.89. Elms’ 200 medley relay, with Goan, set a school record with its second-place finish.

Goan was named to the GNAC all-tournament team.

The Wheaton College men’s team was helped at the MIT Invitational by junior Kyle Wilson of Cumberland (Greely) and freshman Daniel Spencer of North Yarmouth (Greely). Wilson was part of a sixth-place 200-yard free relay team. Spencer was on the fifth-place 800-free relay.

Nicola Mancini of Falmouth, a freshman at Bentley, was second in both the 1- and 3-meter diving events at the Pace Invitational that concluded Dec. 1 against fields of 12 and 10 divers, respectively.

 INDOOR TRACK

Worcester Polytechnic Institute sophomores Nate Martel and Joey Collins of Standish (Bonny Eagle) have made big impacts for the WPI track teams. In a Dec. 1 meet in Springfield, Mass., Collins won the 200-meter dash in 23.60 seconds, placed third in the 400 (52.17) and was part of the second-place 1,600 relay. Martel was second in the weight throw with an impressive heave of 52 feet, 5.25 inches.

CROSS COUNTRY

Fiona Hendry of South Portland (Cheverus), a freshman at Haverford (Pa.) College, earned Division III All-America honors when she finished 23rd among 277 runners (first on her team) at the NCAA cross country championships in Terre Haute, Ind. Haverford finished 13th. A week earlier she had claimed All-Mid East Region honors, finishing eighth to lead Haverford to second overall.

Staff Writer Steve Craig can be contacted at 749-6413 or at:

scraig@mainetoday.com