ORONO, Maine — The University of Maine men’s basketball team could do almost nothing right in the first half of Saturday afternoon’s game against Stony Brook University.
In the second half, the Black Bears could virtually do no wrong.
The Bears came all the way back from a 14-point deficit in the second half, battled their way through a tight game in the final seven minutes, and pulled out a 67-61 victory over the Seawolves at Alfond Arena.
“It’s a big confidence win that sets the tone and says we’re not the old Maine team we used to be,” said senior forward Sean McNally of Gardiner (eight points, nine rebounds, three assists). “No matter if we’re down one, two, 10 or whatever, we’re going to claw back and give you a fight ’til the last buzzer sounds.
“I think this is a big tone-setter for the rest of our season.”
The Seawolves set the tone early Saturday as they raced out to leads of 8-1, 18-8, and 28-14. The Black Bears managed to trim it to a 10-point lead at the half despite having just one offensive rebound and seeing SBU torch them with a 6-for-14 3-point shooting effort.
“The first half, we weren’t attacking the boards at all, offensively or defensively,” said Maine junior forward Troy Barnies of Auburn. “I mean, every time a shot went up, we only had two or three guys crashing the boards. The second half it was all five and I think that was the key.”
That second-half assault on the glass was led by Barnies, who grabbed all nine of his rebounds and scored 12 of his game-high 18 points in the second half.
“We challenged guys at halftime to show some freaking toughness and some heart and obviously he took that challenge,” said Maine head coach Ted Woodward, whose Bears improve to 10-6 overall and 2-1 in America East play. “He [Barnies] basically assumed the responsibility of putting a team on his back from an effort standpoint and was a complete catalyst for our whole team.”
The last time the Bears had 10 wins or more was the 2006-07 season in which they went 12-18.
The Bears hit the boards hard (18 to SBU’s 16) while outscoring the Seawolves in the paint (20-10), in points off turnovers (8-4), and off the bench. They also outshot SBU 60.7 to 26.9 percent from the floor in the second half.
“We usually hold teams in the low 40s,” said SBU coach Steve Pikiell. “They picked the right half to be better in. They made plays and stops when they needed to, and we didn’t.”
Maine used a 13-0 scoring run that started with 17:47 to play to cut a 48-34 Seawolves lead to 48-47 with 12:20 left. Sophomore guard Andrew Rogers came off the bench to spark the run with a hard drive into a gap in the right lane and lay-in with 18:34 to go, although he was one of many catalysts.
“I went in with the purpose of picking everyone else up,” said Rogers, who also hit a big 3-pointer to make it 52-50 SBU with 10:29 left and dished out three total assists. “We started to run and get out in the open a little bit. It was mostly about picking up the energy. We kind of feed off each other.”
Terrance Mitchell (10 points) followed with a 3-pointer and hit Malachi Peay with a nifty feed for a put-in from the right block. Freshman forward Mike Allison then hit back-to-back buckets via a Barnies steal and passes from Mitchell and Peay, and Barnies closed the run with two straight hoops.
“I’m not going to say I played out of my mind because I didn’t,” Barnies said of his second-half production. “I was just playing hard and I think that’s what got everyone else going.”
The Seawolves scored five unanswered points to go up 52-47, but Maine answered with a 7-0 run to take its first lead with 6:41 left. After SBU tied it, Junior Bernal (seven points, seven rebounds, five assists) gave Maine the lead for good with a hoop from the left block. Bernal became the 10th player in team history to get 300 career assists.
Barnies would score two straight hoops to make it 60-57 Maine with 4:18 left, but would miss both foul shots with 1:14 left and Maine holding a 62-60 lead. The Seawolves cut it to 62-61 24 seconds later.
Maine called timeout with 42 seconds left and the Bears whittled the clock down before McNally put the dagger in SBU’s heart with a 3-pointer from the right wing off a pass from Gerald McLemore (10 points).
“It’s just second nature to me to find him for a screen, but they just happened to blitz our ball screen and double him, so he just gave it back and I didn’t even think twice about it,” said the 6-foot-7 McNally. “I just let it go and I think that’s why it went in.”
The four-point lead was more than enough as an SBU 3-point attempt missed, and Bernal stole the ball after an SBU offensive rebound and scored on a buzzer-beating fast break.
Dallis Joyner led the 11-7 Seawolves with 17 points and nine rebounds. Muhammad El-Amin totaled 15 points after scoring 12 in the first half.
For a full account of the game, pick up Monday’s Bangor Daily News or log on to bangordailynews.com.
Barnies 9-12 0-2 18, McNally 3-7 1-3 8, Burnatowski 1-4 0-0 3, Bernal 3-6 1-2 7, McLemore 3-10 2-2 10, Rogers 2-2 0-0 5, Mitchell 4-7 1-1 10, Peay 1-2 0-0 2, Allison 2-3 0-0 4. Totals 28-53 5-10 67.
STONY BROOK (11-7)
Joyner 8-14 1-3 17, Brenton 2-3 4-7 8, Dougher 3-9 1-2 9, Rouse 0-4 2-2 2, El-Amin 5-12 0-0 15, Preboye 0-0 0-0 0, Carter 0-2 0-0 0, Castellanos 0-0 0-0 0, Hayes 2-6 0-0 5, Martin 2-8 1-3 5, Goba 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 22-58 9-17 61.
Halftime_Stony Brook 40-30. 3-Point Goals_Stony Brook 8-22 (El-Amin 5-8, Dougher 2-6, Hayes 1-3, Rouse 0-1, Martin 0-2, Carter 0-2), Maine 6-16 (McLemore 2-7, Rogers 1-1, McNally 1-1, Burnatowski 1-3, Mitchell 1-4). Fouled Out_None. Rebounds_Stony Brook 34 (Brenton 12), Maine 33 (Barnies, McNally 9). Assists_Stony Brook 16 (Dougher 6), Maine 19 (Bernal 5). Total Fouls_Stony Brook 16, Maine 19. A_1,507.