New University of Maine men’s basketball Coach Chris Markwood works with the team during a practice in late October. “We battled, and we came ready to play,” Markwood says of Maine’s upset win at Boston College. “We knew we were going to have to match their intensity for 40 minutes, and I thought we did that.” Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel

Ja’Shonté Wright-McLeish began getting the text messages almost as soon as Monday night’s game was over.

A senior guard on the University of Maine men’s basketball team, Wright-McLeish and his teammates had just defeated Boston College of the Atlantic Coast Conference, 69-64. It was the Black Bears’ first win over a team from a Power Five conference since they defeated Penn State of the Big Ten, 74-64, on Dec. 21, 2010.

The texts poured into Wright-McLeish’s phone from friends back on the Orono campus and back in Montreal, his hometown. All said essentially the same thing. Congratulations, and we can’t wait to see you play.

“Winning this game is something I’ll never forget,” Wright-McLeish said in a phone interview Tuesday afternoon. “Maine needs a win like this for the community…. Winning this game gave us more confidence and showed us we can win this season.”

Boston College paid Maine $100,000 to play the non-conference game. The Black Bears play in the mid-major America East Conference.

University of Maine’s Ja’Shonté Wright-McLeish, left, breaks toward the basket during a team practice in Orono in late October. “Winning this game is something I’ll never forget,” Wright-McLeish says of Maine’s victory Monday night at Boston College. “Maine needs a win like this for the community.” Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel

This win is a step forward for a Maine (2-1) team that hasn’t had a winning record in a dozen seasons. Maine went 6-23 last season, but earned just three victories over NCAA Division I opponents. For perspective, Maine’s first win over a Division I team last season came on Jan. 24, a 71-64 win over New Hampshire in its seventh America East Conference game. Maine also had conference wins over Albany (73-63) and New Jersey Institute of Technology (65-61).


First-year head coach Chris Markwood, who returned to his alma mater after working as an assistant coach at BC last season, said Monday’s win was proof that his team is buying into his defense-first philosophy.

“I’m really proud of the guys. We battled, and we came ready to play. We knew we were going to have to match their intensity for 40 minutes, and I thought we did that,” Markwood said.

Sophomore guard Kellen Tynes, who led the Black Bears with 17 points in the win over the Eagles (2-1), transferred to Maine this season after playing at Montana State, which made the NCAA tournament last season. He called Monday’s win the biggest of his college basketball career.

“They key for us is, can we lock in for a full game defensively? We came pretty close,” Tynes said.

Next up for Coach Chris Markwood and the University of Maine men’s basketball team: a home game against Columbia on Friday night. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel

The Black Bears never trailed, and led by 12 points with just under nine minutes to play. The biggest key to Maine’s win was rebounding. The Black Bears grabbed 38 boards to BC’s 33, and most importantly, kept the Eagles from getting second-chance points after offensive rebounds. Boston College scored just four second-chance points the entire game.

That was a point of emphasis in the practices leading up to the game, said Markwood, especially keeping the Eagles’ T.J. Bickerstaff off the glass. Bickerstaff entered the game with double-doubles in BC’s wins over Colgate and Detroit Mercy. While he grabbed 10 rebounds against Maine, Bickerstaff was held to four points.


“We didn’t do that against Nebraska and lost a close game,” Markwood said. In last week’s season-opening 79-66 loss at Nebraska, the Cornhuskers outrebounded the Black Bears, 44-27, and scored 16 second-chance points to Maine’s five. “That was a huge key coming in. (Boston College) had dominated their first two opponents on the glass. We really fought for every rebound.”

While Maine shot 44.8% from the field (26 for 58), it held the Eagles to 41.4% shooting (24-58).

Maine has one more game against a Power Five opponent, Dec. 21 at Ohio State. The Buckeyes received 36 votes in the latest Associated Press poll, finishing just outside the Top 25. By Tuesday afternoon, Markwood and his coaching staff had turned their attention to Columbia, the Ivy League opponent Maine will host in The Pit in Orono on Friday night.

Beating Boston College is a good win, said Markwood, but only if the Black Bears use it as a building block.

“This is a great group. They’re really coachable. They all have the desire to win games. They all have the desire to improve,” Markwood said.

For Wright-McLeish, the win was just his 19th in a Black Bear career that goes back to the 2019-2020 season, a span of 72 games. Without putting a number on wins and losses, Wright-McLeish said fans can glean one important thing from Monday’s win.

“This is what this team does. It plays hard,” he said.

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