"It has been a long time coming," as many alumni have recently commented, but it seems that the UMPI men's basketball program is back. Prior to the 2000's UMPI men's basketball competed against the likes of University of Maine at Farmington, Thomas, Husson, and Saint Joseph's in the Maine Athletic Conference where the Owl's advanced to the MAC Championship twice during the 1990's.
However, when UMPI decided to stay NAIA and their counter-parts left for the NCAA, what left with them were rich long lasting rivalries with many Maine schools. Those rivalries have been brought back in the last two seasons with UMPI joining the North Atlantic Conference and most recently defeating Thomas College this past Saturday in the NAC Quarterfinals. UMPI will now face #1 seed UMF for the right to take on the winner of #2 SUNY Canton vs. #3 Husson matchup in the NAC Championship game on Saturday. The semifinal matchup between old rivals UMPI and UMF will take place at 5:30 PM on Friday.
UMPI became affiliated with the NCAA in the fall of 2009 and in their first nine seasons the men's basketball program faced challenges that led to a 10-50 record against NCAA Division III teams from 2009 to 2017. In the last three seasons, the men's basketball program has more than doubled their NCAA winning percentage compared to their first nine seasons as a NCAA program. In 2017-2018, the men's team doubled the most NCAA wins in a season in program history by winning four NCAA games, including a win on the road at NESCAC school Connecticut College. The 2017-2018 team went on to advance to the American Collegiate Athletic Association championship game before falling to Pine Manor College 62-53.
In 2018-2019, UMPI had a solid first year in the North Atlantic Conference by winning seven NCAA games while qualifying for the NAC playoffs where they fell on the road at SUNY Canton as the #6 seed in back and forth game. This season the men's basketball program took another step in the right direction by winning seven NCAA games once again and winning their first NAC playoff game to advance to the NAC semifinals.
UMPI has a 9-2 record in their last 11 games after finding themselves in a seven-game losing streak in mid-January where the Owls sat at 4-11 overall and 0-7 within conference play. The Owls went on to win six of their last seven conference games and currently holds an overall record of 13-13. UMPI men's basketball is starting to receive notice amongst other NCAA Division III coaches as one of the more competitive NCAA Division III teams in the state by receiving votes in the Maine Men's Basketball Coaches and Writer's Association that found them just outside the Top 5 poll, receiving the 6th most votes amongst the 11 Maine NCAA Division III schools.
UMPI is coming off a thrilling 87-86 win over Thomas College this past Saturday where the Owls found their 17-point lead early in the second half slowly slip away. After an UMPI timeout with 1:03 remaining and UMPI down three, sophomore guard Chris Brown (So. Port St. Lucie, FL) had a great take to the rim bringing the Owls within one point, 86-85 with 56 seconds remaining. After a great defensive stand, sophomore forward KJ Minter (So. Elkton, MD) was fouled on the rebounding action and calmly walked down to the other end and knocked down both free throws to give UMPI an 87-86 lead with 29 seconds remaining. Thomas held for the last shot and the Owl's defense came up big again getting the stop. Minter once again secured the rebound and was fouled with two seconds remaining. After missing two free throws, Thomas had one last desperation play, but Minter broke up the pass and the Owls advanced with the 87-86 win.
On Friday, UMPI will take on UMF who they have not faced in over two months. The last matchup between the two ended with the Beavers picking up the weekend sweep defeating the Owls 87-59 on December 13th and 98-78 on December 14th in the last games of the first semester.
The Owls go into Friday's semifinal matchup with a balanced scoring attack with four players averaging double figures led by 2018-2019 1st Team NAC All Conference player Shyquinn Dix (Jr. Stamford, CT) with 16.9 points per game. Dix also leads the team in rebounds with 6.6 per game and assists with 4.0 per game. 2018-2019 NAC Rookie of the Year Griffin Guerrette (So. Presque Isle, ME) is having another stellar year averaging 15.2 points per game while shooting nearly 40 percent from three. 2017-2018 ACAA Rookie of the Year DeAndre Duncombe (So. Port St. Lucie, FL) is averaging 12.3 points per game and has taken on the task to guard the other team's most dangerous offensive player. Captain Te'Von Hines (Sr. Alexandria, VA) is averaging 12.5 points and 5.4 rebounds while shooting 41.7 percent from three. Minter has played a pivotal part in the Owl's success doing much of the "dirty" work, playing great defense and cleaning up the defensive glass where he is averaging seven rebounds a game over the last nine games. Brown and Will Griffiths (Sr. Queens, NY) have provided depth and timely scoring off the bench during the Owls run to the playoffs.
If you are interested in attending the semifinal matchup between UMPI and UMF at UMF on Friday at 5:30 PM we encourage you to get to Dearborn Gymnasium on the UMF campus when the doors open at 4:30 PM, one hour prior to tip-off for ticket sales.