ALBANY, N.Y. — The University of Maine men earned their seventh basketball victory in the last eight games with a 63-54 win over the University at Albany Thursday night.
Sophomore guard Gerald McLemore hit five of nine 3-pointers en route to 21 points and helped the Black Bears pull away from the Great Danes down the stretch at SEFCU Arena.
Maine improved to 12-6 overall and 4-1 in America East conference play. The Bears have as many as 12 wins for the first time since the 2006-07 season, when they went 12-18.
The Danes (6-15, 1-5) came within a point of the Bears with 8:09 left in the game, but Maine responded with a 6-0 run.
The Bears upped their lead to 11 (58-47) with two minutes left, but the Danes had one more rally in them. They cut Maine’s lead to 59-54 with 52 seconds to play, but Maine milked the clock and forced the Danes to foul while scoring the game’s final four points. Junior guard Terrance Mitchell hit two free throws and stole the ball in the waning seconds to finish the game with a fast-break dunk.
Maine enjoyed an edge in fouls by committing just five to Albany’s nine midway through the second half. That advantage increased to nine to 16, respectively, with a minute to play.
“I thought we took good shots and took what the defense gave us,” said Maine head coach Ted Woodward. “We got some points off our defense in transition.”
Maine forward Sean McNally, a junior from Gardiner, finished with 14 points and five rebounds. Mitchell scored 10 or more points for the fifth straight game with a total of 12 to go with a game-high four steals.
In all, the Bears had nine steals, harassed the Danes into 18 turnovers to Maine’s 14, and outscored Albany 25-14 in points off turnovers.
Senior guard Junior Bernal had nine points, six rebounds and three assists for the Bears.
The key stat of the game was field goal shooting. Maine shot almost 60 percent (59.5) from the field for the game while holding Albany to 40 percent. Maine also shot 47.1 percent (8-for-17) from 3-point range.
“I really think we’re starting to get ourselves in an offensive rhythm with our guys knowing what to look for and what to do,” said Woodward. “Gerald was going hard without the basketball and as balanced as we’ve been offensively the last few weeks, teams are going to have to cover us more evenly and not concentrate too much on one or two guys.”
Maine’s hot shooting helped the Bears overcome a rebounding disadvantage to the Danes, who grabbed 26 total rebounds to Maine’s 22, and Albany’s 100 percent shooting effort from the line (13-for-13).
Despite the rebounding disadvantage, Maine outscored Albany 22-12 in the paint.
“They’re one of the best offensive rebounding teams in the conference and we held them to four [offensive] in the second half,” Woodward said.
Guard Tim Ambrose led the Danes with 24 points and eight rebounds, but was held to just two field goals (both 3-pointers) in the second half, when he committed six of his eight turnovers. He was Albany’s lone double-digit scorer.
“We didn’t do anything different. Murphy [Burnatowski] and Mitchell helped on him,” said Woodward. “Gerald even went on him for awhile. You don’t stop him with just one player.”
Logan Aronholt was the Danes’ second leading scorer with eight.
Maine took a 27-24 lead into halftime as McLemore scored 13 first half points.