The Blue Devils used an 11-2 run in the first half to take control and were never seriously challenged in UMaine’s first home game of the season against a Division I opponent.

Through the disappointment there was reason for hope in the continued development of 6-foot-7 freshman forward Andrew Fleming of South Paris.

Making his third collegiate start, the 2016 Maine Gatorade Player of the Year and first-team Bangor Daily News All-Maine honoree from Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School scored a career-high 20 points on 8-of-13 shooting, grabbed eight rebounds and added a blocked shot and a steal as UMaine’s primary interior defender.

“He’s straight, he’s good,” said Central Connecticut’s junior Mustafa Jones, who battled Fleming in the paint much of the night and was challenged defensively by the left-hander’s forays to the rim.

“He was able to create for others and he’s a good scorer and a pretty aggressive player,” added Jones.

Fleming played a team-high 32 minutes, in part a testament to his competitive nature, despite the fact UMaine (2-5) trailed by double digits for the final 24 minutes.

“One of the reasons why we didn’t take him out — he’s obviously a talented player — is he competes at a high level and it really matters to him,” said UMaine coach Bob Walsh. “You can tell that in the way he plays, and I’m really proud of him for how he’s continued to improve. I’m looking forward to seeing that continue.”

Fleming opted to play his college basketball in state after establishing Oxford Hills career records for points (1,385) and rebounds (1,025) as well the season scoring mark (563) last winter while leading coach Scott Graffam’s Vikings (15-5) to the Class AA North semifinals.

The move to Division I has required Fleming to adapt to a heightened pace.

“I think just adjusting to the speed of the game is the biggest challenge,” he said. “It’s much faster, both defensively and offensively, so I’m just trying to slow the game down.

“It’s getting better,” he added, “but there’s definitely still a lot more room to grow in being a leader among my teammates.”

Fleming contributed off the bench during the first four games, including a 17-point, nine-rebound performance in an 80-72 loss to Boston University.

He has started the last three games, and scored 14 points in a win over UMaine-Presque Isle on Saturday.

He ranks second on the team in scoring (10.7 points per game) and shares the lead in rebounding with senior forward Marko Pirovic (5.4 rpg).

Fleming is shooting 59.6 percent from the field while averaging 25.3 minutes per game.

“He gets better every day,” said Walsh, “and I think he’s becoming more comfortable every day with how good he is and how good he can be.”


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