ORONO, Maine — Saturday’s slugfest against Binghamton University was tight throughout, but after watching an eight-point lead with 4:44 left shrink to one point with 2:31 to play, the University of Maine men’s basketball team desperately needed a spark.
They got just that from a guy whose box score line would barely merit a first, let alone second, glance.
Troy Barnies, who came off the bench for only the third time this season after starting 20 of 22 previous games, grabbed two big defensive rebounds, drew a foul, hit one of two foul shots and engineered a pretty back-and-forth passing play with fellow junior forward Sean McNally for an assist on an easy hoop from the left block to help spur a game-ending 11-0 scoring run by the Black Bears.
The end result was a 61-49 victory at Alfond Arena which gave the Bears a regular-season sweep of Binghamton and broke a tie for third place in the America East conference.
Barnies, who finished with all five of his points and three of five rebounds in the second half, was just one the key players for Maine, now 15-8.
McNally was literally Maine’s big man Saturday. After two straight subpar games, McNally rebounded with his third double-double — and first in 2½ months — of the season.
“I had a meeting with coach earlier this week,” said McNally. “He talked to me about getting back on track and playing with abandon and being more feared on the court by the other team, so I kind of took that to heart.”
The Gardiner native scored 12 of his 15 points and grabbed eight of his 14 rebounds — both game-highs — in the second half for Maine, now 7-3 in AE.
“We just talked about going out there and throwing his body around and being more demanding with the ball,” said Maine coach Ted Woodward. “Instead of just letting things happen, he had to make things happen, and I thought he did a great job with that from the opening jump today.”
Despite having four fouls, McNally led Maine in an intense last two minutes of rough, physical play and hard fouls.
“We played with emotion tonight, all five guys on the floor, and I think that’s really what won us the game down the stretch,” said McNally.
McNally was involved in three hard fouls both defensively and offensively in the last five minutes. With 39 seconds left, BU was called for an intentional foul on Terrance Mitchell. Mitchell, who took exception to the foul, had to be restrained by teammates.
“I thought it was a cheap shot. We’re not going to back down, even if you do foul us hard,” said Mitchell, who canned four 3-pointers en route to 14 points in the first half. “We all had a bad taste in our mouths after the Vermont game and just wanted to get our swagger back.”
Mitchell, who was getting his seventh start, hit one of two foul shots to give him his only point of the second half.
“He didn’t do much in the second half, but in the first he really hurt us,” said interim head coach Mark Macon, whose Bearcats are now 11-14 (6-4 in AE). “They were hitting shots in the first half. The second, they didn’t, but they were getting it inside and getting fouls and we weren’t.”
With Maine holding a tenuous 50-49 lead, Barnies hit one of two free throws with 2:06 remaining to start the game-defining run. Nine seconds after Binghamton’s Greer Wright missed two free throws with 1:46 left, Gerald McLemore took a pass from Junior Bernal and hit the biggest shot of the final two minutes, a 3-pointer from the left corner to make it 54-49 Maine.
“You know, I wasn’t making them all, but I kept shooting,” McLemore said. “What am I going to do? Sit outside and not shoot it? The main thing was getting it in on the post and making our free throws.”
McNally then scored six straight points on a hoop on the Barnies pass and four straight free throws on two 1-and-1s over a 21-second span.
The Bears hit 12 of 14 foul shots in the last 8½ minutes.
Maine outshot BU from the field 47.6 percent to 33.3 in the second half and outrebounded the Bearcats 39-35 overall.
Mahamoud Jabbi led BU with 12 points and nine rebounds. Moussa Camara and Wright each scored 11. Dylan Talley had eight points, six rebounds and five assists.