ORONO, Maine — It took about four minutes and 43 seconds for Mark Socoby to go from pity to party Monday Night.
The University of Maine junior guard bounced back from missing two of three foul shots with 31 seconds left in overtime and his team down two points to putting his team up 16 seconds later. He then scored the winning points with 48 seconds left in double overtime to help the Black Bears down New Hampshire 78-75 in a cardiac contest at Alfond Arena.
Even with Socoby’s heroics, and his weren’t the only ones turned in by a player wearing a Maine jersey, the Bears still had to sweat out five missed UNH shots — four of them potential game-tying 3-pointers — in the final 36 seconds of double OT to even their America East record to 3-3.
“Yeah, finally, I didn’t think the buzzer was ever going off. That was a lot of shots,” said sophomore forward Sean McNally, who finally grabbed a rebound off an errant UNH shot with just under two seconds left in the final period.
The rebound gave McNally his fourth double-double of the season with 10 points and 10 rebounds. He also had a key block in overtime.
The 8-11 Black Bears’ second straight AE victory — against a second consecutive AE-leading team — involved more twists and turns than a motocross race and more heroics than a Marvel comic book.
“This finally shows how all our hard work can pay off, finally,” said freshman guard Gerald McLemore, who led five double-digit Maine scorers with 17 points after scoring none in the first half. “We just trust each other and a lot of guys came in to make big plays up and down the lineup tonight.”
Maine sophomore guard Malachi Peay had 12 points while Socoby and Kaimondre Owes each had 11.
The Wildcats, now 7-8 (2-2), were led by Tyrece Gibbs, who scored 22.
Socoby, who was fouled on a missed 3-pointer in OT and made only the third one, rebounded by completing a traditional three-point play with a foul shot to put Maine up 72-70 with 15 seconds left, but UNH tied it on Gibbs’ rebound of his own miss with five to go.
“Yeah man, I’ve got to get to the gym and work on my free throws,” Socoby said with a slight chuckle. “I mean, I work on it a lot. I do. But I blocked it out and came back to make some more.”
Socoby started off the second overtime by faking a 3-pointer before finding Peay on a cut to the right block. Peay scored, fouled out Dane DiLiegro and hit the free throw with 3:27 to go. Socoby then hit two free throws with 48 seconds left to make it 77-72 Maine, but Rony Tchatchoua hit a 3-pointer with 38 seconds left to make it a two-point game.
“You’ve just got to let things go because there’s always the next play and as a team, we’ve been learning that,” Socoby said. “You just have to come back and make the next play, and that’s what we did tonight.”
With 36.6 left, Owes hit the first of two free throws and UNH took over after his second shot missed, but none of the five ensuing shots found their mark.
“This is a very disappointing loss for us,” said UNH coach Bill Herrion. “If we want to take the next step with our program, we have to win a game like this on the road and I’m very disappointed with our play in the last minute of regulation.”
With Maine up five points with six minutes left in regulation, UNH started a 12-1 scoring run with a 3-pointer from the left wing by Alvin Abreu, who fueled the crucial run with eight points. The result was a 61-55 UNH lead with 1:19 to play.
The Bears, who were stone cold for the previous five minutes, suddenly heated up offensively and defensively, especially the latter.
ä Mark Socoby stole the ball, dished to Gerald McLemore, and got the pass right back for a layup with 55 seconds left — 61-57.
ä After a Maine timeout, Maine’s Junior Bernal stole a pass and sped to the basket for another layup with 47 ticks to go — 61-59.
ä With 14 seconds to go, McLemore knocked the ball loose and a scramble ensued for the loose ball near the key. Malachi Peay covered it and Maine got the ball with the possession arrow. Two timeouts later, McLemore tied it with a reverse lay-in off a baseline drive to the left block with five seconds left in regulation — 61-61.
Bernal had a solid, all-around game for Maine with nine points, six rebounds, six assists and three steals. Peay also had three steals to go with seven boards. Maine’s bench outscored UNH’s 19-12.
“Our goal coming in was to play hard for 40 minutes and we did that and then some,” said Maine coach Ted Woodward. “We’re happy and it’s a tremendous win, but we don’t want to get too far ahead of ourselves and we need to keep working and improving.