ORONO, Maine — Sunday afternoon’s men’s basketball game between the University of Maine and Kennesaw State University (Ga.) was anything but pretty offensively. As a matter of fact, it was pretty offensive.
The teams had identical 44.4 percent shooting efforts (8-for-18) from the foul line and combined to shoot 32.2 percent from the field, and while some of that was simply bad shooting, much of it had to do with stifling defensive pressure.
In that regard, the Black Bears had perhaps their finest game so far this season as they harassed KSU shooters all game long, took a comfortable lead, and survived a late rally by the Owls to pull out a 57-51 victory at Alfond Arena.
The Bears improved to 5-4 after harassing the Owls, who hit 19 of 25 3-pointers in a 97-point game and record-breaking victory over Lipscomb University (Tenn.) last week, into a 5-for-29 (17.2 percent) shooting effort from 3-point range and a 29.7 shooting percentage from the floor overall.
“We had three guards in [Spencer] Dixon, Markeith [Cummings] and Kurtis Woods who were 5-for-33. You can’t beat an egg doing that,” said KSU coach Tony Ingle, whose Owls are now 4-5.
Maine wasn’t much better with a 35.1 percent effort from the floor overall, but the Bears did can nine of 21 3-pointers and did get two players untracked offensively who had been struggling recently.
Sophomore guard Gerald McLemore hit five 3-pointers in the first half to help Maine take a 31-22 halftime lead.
“That was my fault. I had the wrong man on him and didn’t take him off quick enough,” Ingle said. “We let him get going and I thought he was the difference in the game.”
McLemore took full advantage of screens at the top of the key, shot 6-for-10 from 3-point range and finished with a game-high 20 points.
“We like to use stagger screens, but today they were going underneath our screens and it freed me up more,” McLemore said. “Instead of me coming all the way across, I just shot off the screener.”
Troy Barnies also came up big both ways with a double-double and solid defense over 34 minutes. The junior forward from Auburn had 11 points, 13 rebounds, a steal and an assist.
“I think the main thing for me today was I kind of stayed within myself. I just played to my strengths and let things happen,” Barnies said.
The Owls used a 9-2 run to cut Maine’s lead to 37-31 midway through the second half, but Maine went on a 14-4 run over the next seven minutes to take a 53-37 lead with 4:12 to play.
“We’ve been working extremely hard on our defense, especially since Thanksgiving, and I was really happy with the job our guys did,” said Maine coach Ted Woodward. “We didn’t do anything fancy. We just played tough, man-to-man defense with a little zone.”
Maine also outrebounded a big KSU lineup 32-26 defensively and 48-45 overall.
“We didn’t have a really good offensive game, but we played really hard on defense and got great efforts from guys off the bench,” said Barnies.
Freshman forward Mike Allison had two blocks, seven rebounds, seven points and a steal while sophomore guard Andrew Rogers also came off the bench to dish out a game-high five assists in 13 minutes.
Junior forward Sean McNally of Gardiner was held to two points — 10.5 below his scoring average — but managed to grab 10 rebounds in 13 minutes despite foul trouble.
“They did a good job controlling the tempo and getting on the boards,” said Ingle. “I thought we had a better chance to score on the interior, but we passed up some of that and forced some shots.
“I think them getting back out to the ball a little quicker probably threw us a little bit out of our rhythm.”
Cummings had 11 points and six boards to lead the Owls. Off the bench, Matt Heramb had 11 points and five rebounds while LaDaris Green grabbed 15 rebounds to go with six points.