ORONO — The University of Maine men’s basketball team can’t escape how last season ended – with an 85-54 thud of a loss at UMass-Lowell in the America East quarterfinals. In fact, the Black Bears have “85-54” hanging prominently in various places in their locker room.

UMaine Coach Chris Markwood: “We’re not looking at specific numbers in wins and loses. We’re just trying to take major steps. I think we have the group here to do that. The upside of this group is high.” Travis Lazarczyk photo

The lopsided loss didn’t undo the progress the Black Bears made last season, Chris Markwood’s first as head coach, but it serves as a reminder of how far they still have to go.

“It’s over the bathroom, both doors, it’s everywhere. But you know? It’s good. We needed it,” junior guard Kellen Tynes, last season’s America East Defensive Player of the Year, said after Monday’s practice. “That’s been the fuel to our fire. Not only Lowell,  but we had a lot of close games we lost last year. We lost a couple games on a couple plays, so we’ve got to make sure we’re a little more focused this year.”

Maine went 13-17 last season and 7-9 in league play under Markwood, a former Mr. Maine Basketball from South Portland who also played at Maine. That was a seven-win improvement from the 2021-22 season, when Maine went 6-23, and marked the most wins for the program since the 2010-11 team finished 15-15.

The Black Bears open the season Nov. 6 at Charlotte. Maine’s first conference game is scheduled for Jan. 6 at defending champion Vermont.

With 10 returning players and seven newcomers, including five transfers, Markwood said the team’s goal is continued improvement that can turn the program into one that can contend for the America East title season after season.


“We’re not looking at specific numbers in wins and loses. We’re just trying to take major steps. I think we have the group here to do that. The upside of this group is high,” said Markwood, who was Maine’s point guard in 2005, the last time the Black Bears won a game in the conference tournament.

Among the seven newcomers is Hampden native Bryce Lausier, the Varsity Maine Boys’ Basketball Player of the Year in 2020, who joined the Black Bears after three seasons at Division II St. Anselm, and Adam Cisse, a graduate student who played four seasons at Manhattan. At 6-foot-10, Cisse gives Maine the big post player the team lacked last season. Markwood said Cisse is a physical two-way player in the low post.

“The thing I love about him is he’s really verbal. He’s loud. He’s a New Yorker, so he likes to talk. You don’t always get that with big guys. I love having that in terms of directing the defense,” Markwood said, “and he’s a guy you can throw it too in the post. He can go score with his back to the basket. He definitely brings a different dynamic than what we had last year.”

The addition of Cisse could also help in rebounding and low post defense. Maine finished last in America East on the boards last season, averaging 30.8 rebounds per game. Maine was next to last in blocked shots, with 62.

Cisse said he was attracted to Maine by Markwood’s pitch on helping turn the Black Bears into a team that can perennially contend for the conference title.

“What he’s trying to build for the state of Maine and this program, that was big to me,” Cisse said.


In the backcourt, Maine returns two players, Tynes and sophomore Jaden Clayton, who started all 30 games last season. The Black Bears also return guard Ja’Shonte Wright-McLeish and forward Kristians Feierbergs, who started 29 and 18 games, respectively.

Defense will continue to be Maine’s calling card. As a team, Maine was sixth in the NCAA in steals per game last season, with 9.5. Tynes led the nation with 3.27 steals per game and 98 steals total.

“It all starts with defense. We’ve got to be even better,” Clayton said.

Maine announced Monday it will play all but two home games in the Pit on campus, with the Jan. 11 game against rival New Hampshire and the Jan. 27 game against Binghamton scheduled for Cross Insurance Center in Bangor.

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