ORONO, Maine — Murphy was in attendance among the thousand or so fans at the University of Maine’s Alfond Arena Saturday afternoon, and he brought his famous law along with him.
Everything that could go wrong pretty much did for the Maine men’s basketball team, but the Black Bears still had a shot to win in the final seconds of Saturday’s America East conference game against University of Maryland Baltimore County.
But UMBC’s best defensive effort of the season and poor foul shooting down the stretch by the Bears combined to snap Maine’s six-game win streak and send the Retrievers home with a 56-55 victory.
This was supposed to be one of the few easy ones on the Bears’ schedule. The Retrievers came in ranked 346th out of 347 NCAA Division I teams with a 1-20 record. Maine was ranked No. 114, had won nine of its last 10, and sat alone in first place with a 6-1 AE record.
“You can see I’m choked up. I’m just… proud of the guys,” said UMBC coach Randy Monroe. “The bookies had us losing this game. There’s no question about that. Nobody gave us a chance.”
None of that made any difference on the court as the Retrievers showed a determined display of dogged defense throughout to keep Maine from sustaining or developing any offensive rhythm.
“We went down there and was the only team to beat UMBC on their home court two years ago when they won the conference, so we know these things can happen all the time,” said Maine coach Ted Woodward, whose Bears are now 14-7 overall and 6-2 in AE play. “We couldn’t get anything going on the offensive end and had trouble stopping them.”
The final play typified Maine’s frustrating day. With 31.6 seconds left and Maine leading 55-54, the Bears harassed the Retrievers, kept them from even getting a decent shot for 29 seconds, and even looked like they were going to get a steal. But UMBC turned a broken play into two points as reserve forward Robbie Jackson got the ball on the left baseline and drove in for the winning bucket with two seconds left.
“There was a high ball screen and I was going to stop [Chris] De La Rosa first because I know my big guy isn’t going to be a throwback shooter,” Maine forward Sean McNally said. “It was either going to be De La Rosa or [Chauncey] Gilliam who’d go to the rim.
“I was out there hedging and got caught not looking to find my man and he happened to be open on the baseline.”
The 6-foot-7 McNally picked up the 7-foot Jackson on the baseline, fronting him with about six seconds left.
“I could have fouled him, but that would have given them two baskets without a defense, but he went up and laid it in,” said the junior from Gardiner. “I was debating it. I guess it would have been better to foul him and make him make two free throws, but I didn’t.”
Maine called timeout with 1.4 seconds left, but Troy Barnies’ inbounds heave to half-court was intercepted, Maine was called for a foul and time ran out after UMBC missed the 1-and-1 with 0.3 seconds left.
Maine missed four of seven free throws in the last 4½ minutes and three straight in the last 72 seconds.
UMBC never led by more than six points. Maine, which led only three times, never led by more than two points.
The Bears shot 32.1 percent from the field overall to UMBC’s 42.3 percent effort. Maine outscored UMBC 11-6 in points off turnovers as UMBC had 15 of the 29 total, but the Retrievers won the battle of bench points 20-9 as Jackson combined with freshman guard Brian Neller for all 20.
Jackson had eight points to go with seven rebounds, while Neller had 12 points. Gilliam had 12 points and Adrian Satchell had 10 points and 10 rebounds.
Gerald McLemore led Maine with 16 points and four steals. Junior Bernal had nine points, seven rebounds and six assists.
“We can’t get ahead of ourselves,” said Barnies, who had 13 points and nine rebounds. “We didn’t want to come to the game being cocky, but we kind of did at first and fell short because of it.”
PHOTO BY JASON P. SMITH
Maine’s Murphy Burnatowski looks to pass around the University of Maryland Baltimore County’s Chauncey Gilliam at Alfond Arena in Orono Saturday. UMBC won 56-55.