ORONO, Maine — The University of Maine men couldn’t generate any offensive rhythm or sustain any momentum against an effective Quinnipiac University zone defense and the Bobcats ruined the Black Bears’ home opener.
Freshman Gerald McLemore scored 19 points, but it wasn’t enough to keep the Bobcats from posting a 73-66 victory over the Bears at Alfond Arena Tuesday night.
“They did a solid job penetrating in and unfortunately we had a lot of fouls that contributed to that,” said Maine head coach Ted Woodward, whose Bears are now 3-2 on the season. “We haven’t been foul-prone all season and why all of a sudden tonight we had so many is hard to explain.
“We were never able to get in transition because there was always a deadball whistle, and we had to stay in the zone because we had tremendous foul problems.”
In all, five Maine players fouled out of the game, three of them starters. The 3-2 Bobcats had two players foul out.
The Bobcats went on an 11-2 run to turn a one-point lead with 12:42 left in the game to a 50-40 lead less than four minutes later. The lead would grow to as much as 54-41 before Maine would go on a run of its own and close the gap to 54-48 with 4:16 to go.
“I feel like it started on the defensive end,” said McLemore, who fouled out with five seconds left “As a team, we needed to rebound better, and not just the bigs, but the guards too. They had a lot of put-backs too where we didn’t.”
The Bears switched from zone to a press that seemed to bother the Bobcats, but not enough. Maine had to foul and the Bobcats made their freebies to the tune of 15 of 18 in the final four minutes.
Junior guard Mark Socoby scored 14 and had two assists, but committed seven of Maine’s 15 turnovers.
Sophomore forward Justin Rutty torched the Bears from the post and the blocks, especially in the second half when he scored 13 of Quinnipiac’s first 24 points en route to a game-high 30. He also grabbed seven rebounds.
“They were penetrating and we should have put more pressure up top to keep that from happening,” said Junior Bernal, who was held to five points and four rebounds.
The Bears could generate no offensive flow or momentum in the first half, shooting 26 percent (7-for-27) from the floor and turning the ball over eight times. Meanwhile, the Bobcats were turning those turnovers into points and using an 8-1 run in the final three minutes to take a 30-26 lead into halftime.
“We couldn’t break the drought, shooting-wise, from 3-point range, from the floor, or from the line. It all seemed to go bad at once,” said Woodward.
It didn’t help that the Bears got in early foul trouble and put the Bobcats in the bonus with 5:15 left in the first half.