Fleming and UMaine turned in memorable, efficient performances

Over the past 70 years of watching, playing and coaching basketball, I was happy to witness the most effective, different ways a team got the ball inside last Wednesday night when University of Maine junior forward Andrew Fleming scored 38 points.

The former Oxford Hills High School star made 18 of 20 field goals, all within the paint, and sank two foul shots in UMaine’s 78-59 victory over the University of Massachusetts Lowell.

As a former college player whose game was 75 percent in the paint and going to the foul line as well as a high school coach who emphasized getting the ball to the low block inside first, I really appreciated what UMaine and Fleming did.

Of Fleming’s 18 field goals, the farthest was a 10-foot jump shot from the middle of the free throw lane. The other 17 hoops were six-footers or less. He made five baskets when being fronted by the defense.

Fleming also made three dunks off back-door cuts and converted three consecutive turnaround jump shots from the block to begin the second half. Other details on those baskets included: converting a basket on a wing to block cut, a dunk off a cut from the wing, making a tip-in, scoring after an offensive rebound, converting off dribble penetration and slamming a dunk off transition.

It was great to watch each of those baskets again on a video posted on the goblackbears.com website. The video is an excellent teaching tool for coaches and players at any level.

According to ESPN and Stats and Info, Fleming became the first player over at least the last 20 seasons to make 90 percent when attempting at least 20 field goals in a single game. During that span, more than 13,000 players have attempted at least 20 field goals in a game, but no player other than Fleming has made 90 percent of those attempts.

That’s quite a feat.

Fleming also tied the single-game record for field goals for UMaine and America East.

It was interesting to note that despite all of his shots in traffic, he only got to the foul line once.  He had 20 points in the first half and 18 in the second half.

His teammates played a big role in the career performance as 15 of his baskets came off assists. They looked for him on almost every offensive possession.

The teammates made great passes to Fleming in the paint, especially on back-door cuts, when he was fronted in the paint or posting on the blocks.

For the game, UMaine had 22 assists on its 32 baskets (69.8 percent).

Credit for Fleming’s career game also has to go to UMaine’s coaching staff for implementing the strategy and staying with it. UMass Lowell seemed content to let Fleming go one-on-one in the 35 minutes he played instead of forcing him off the block or double-teaming him before or as soon as he got the ball inside. The defense could have tried to force the ball outside where UMaine hit only 16 percent of its 3-pointers (16.7 percent).

Fleming helped his own cause by sealing his defender properly and showing teammates where he wanted the ball as he was being fronted. When he wasn’t getting the ball on the block, he precisely timed his back-door cuts to free himself from the defenders’ denial overplay.

Of his five dunks, three were off back-door cuts, one on receiving the ball after a straight cut to the hoop and the other from a transition pass.

Fleming’s memorable performance gained national attention as it was highlighted with a segment on ESPN’s SportsCenter.

More memorable games could follow for Fleming and the Black Bears.