ORONO — Division III St. Joseph’s College bused up from Standish to take on the Division I Black Bears of the University of Maine in a men’s basketball exhibition Sunday afternoon.

“You learn a lot more with adversity than with success,” St. Joseph’s Coach Rob Sanicola said.

Adversity? St. Joseph’s only trailed the Black Bears 35-33 at halftime.

Maine eventually pulled away for a 66-54 win, before about 250 fans in Maine’s Memorial Gymnasium.

Sanicola was pleased: “If you compete, you’re putting in energy, and usually good things happen. We’re not concerned about the points. I’m happy that these guys weren’t fearful. They believed in themselves.”

Maine Coach Bob Walsh was not so thrilled.

“I don’t like the way we came out in the first half,” Walsh said. “I thought St. Joe’s controlled the competitive edge of the game, and we didn’t respond well.

“Ultimately we settled down in the second half and became more of who we are.”

Andrew Fleming, one of the few returning regulars for the Black Bears, led all scorers with 17 points.

Fleming, a 6-foot-7 forward from Oxford Hills High, powered his way inside with drives, inside jumpers and a game-high 11 rebounds.

Walsh has had to build around Fleming after losing eight players from last year, four through graduation, and four others transferring.

Part of that rebuilding was bringing in three junior college transfers, including 6-5 guard Vernon Lowndes, who scored 15.

“I think we’re deeper. We’re older. But we’re still pretty new,” Walsh said.

Sunday’s win “wasn’t pretty … I think the lesson for us that there can’t be a day we don’t bring it mentally. If we don’t bring it mentally, we’re getting beat.”

Among the “new” players are two returners who were injured most of last year, 5-11 guard Aaron Calixte and 6-6 Ilker Er, who added an inside presence along with Fleming. Er scored nine points.

Maine is 2-0 in exhibitions, the other coming against Division III Husson. Sunday’s game demonstrated room for improvement.

“We showed we can compete … the only thing we need is to compete the whole game,” Fleming said. “Toughness and competing is what we’re lacking right now.

“Playing together will help the chemistry, and get the flow of the game working for us.”

St. Joseph’s was led by 6-1 guard Darian Berry (15 points), a junior from Rochester, New Hampshire. Guard Ian Mileikis (Auburn) scored 11, forward Quinn Richardson-Newton (Saco) added five, and guard Jack Casale (Portland) hit one 3-pointer.

Richardson-Newton, a 6-4 senior, battled Maine’s bigger post men.

“It was a whole new experience,” he said. “In D-III you don’t get guys that size. They’re more like me. Fleming and all those guys with big bodies, they’re great to play against.”

Maine used its size inside to out-rebound the Monks 55-28. The Black Bears scored 32 points in the paint, to St. Joseph’s 14.

Kevin Thomas can be reached at 791-6411 or:

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