ORONO, Maine — The road-weary University of Maine men looked just that Tuesday night as a physical Quinnipiac University team outrebounded them, outhustled them, and outscored them in the paint en route to a 59-46 basketball victory.
If a 32-22 edge in points in the paint and 40-37 rebounding edge wasn’t already enough of a headache for the Black Bears, the outside shooting and defensive effort by James Johnson certainly was.
Quinnipiac’s sophomore guard hit four of six 3-pointers on the way to a game-high 16 points and practically lived in Maine leading scorer Gerald McLemore’s shirt as he held Maine’s sophomore guard to six points — 10.8 below his scoring average.
“Johnson has been phenomenal. He’s the best conditioned and best defensive player we have,” said head coach Tom Moore, whose Bobcats are now 3-1. “We never left McLemore at any time.”
McLemore has felt like a marked man lately, seeing man-to-man, double teams, zones geared toward him and even box-and-1’s.
“That’s just something where I’m going to have to find better ways to get open,” McLemore said. “He [Johnson] did a great job sticking on me and they were very physical.
“They took us out of our game, which shouldn’t happen, and made it hard to get open shots, even when I was coming off screens.”
The rest of the Bobcats were no less physical as they clogged the paint and bodied up on the Bears whenever anyone got a ball in the post.
“We didn’t get points in the paint, in particular, even though we got some looks in the post. We couldn’t get into an offensive flow,” said Maine coach Ted Woodward. “I thought we looked tired against their physical style.”
Maine is now 2-3 after opening the season with four straight road games.
After outrebounding Quinnipiac 9-5 offensively and 22-19 overall for a 10-0 edge in second-chance points in the first half, the Bears managed just four offensive boards (18 overall) and were outscored 6-2 on second-chance points in the second and half.
“They got three quick offensive rebounds early in the second half, so we called timeout and just went bonkers to them about boxing out,” Moore said. “I think we did a much better job of helping in the lane later on too, especially with McNally, which made it hard for him to get good looks.”
McNally is junior forward Sean McNally of Gardiner, who was a beast on the boards in the first half with nine, but was held to one in the second. He also finished with nine points.
“They toughened up a lot in the paint in the second half, helping on our cuts in the paint and limiting our touches inside,” McNally said. “They were a lot tougher team and they played more physical.”
Troy Barnies of Auburn led the Bears with 11 points and Junior Bernal pitched in with nine rebounds and three assists. Canadian freshman forward Murphy Burnatowski came off the bench for eight points, five rebounds and three steals.
Maine dug an early hole for itself as it scored just two hoops in the first five minutes while Quinnipiac built a 12-4 lead. Maine cut it down to three with 5:33 left in the half, and later shrunk the Bobcats’ lead to one point four minutes into the second half, but Quinnipiac used runs of 8-1 and 8-0 over the next eight minutes to take a comfortable 49-37 lead. The Bobcats would stretch their lead to as many as 16 despite having eight fouls to Maine’s four for much of the final 10 minutes.
“They came out of the gate more mentally focused than we were,” McNally said. “We dug ourselves too big a hole with that 10-point lead in the first five minutes and that was the story.”
Quinnipiac’s shooting advantage (45.3 to 30.6 percent) from the field didn’t help the Bears’ cause either.
Justin Rutty had 14 points and six boards while Jeremy Baker had a double-double (10 points, 10 rebounds) for the Northeast Conference’s Bobcats.