DURHAM, N.H. — Gerald McLemore put on a long-distance shooting exhibition and scored a career-high 30 points to lead the University of Maine men to a 72-53 men’s basketball victory over the University of New Hampshire at Lundholm Gym Wednesday night.
“When you play hard, everything just kind of falls into place. You don’t overthink your shot or your passing,” said McLemore. “Things just fall into place.”
Seven of 10 3-point shots fell into place for Maine’s sophomore guard as he led Maine to victory after a weeklong game layoff.
The win improved the 17-9 Black Bears to 9-4 in America East and kept them in third place in the conference standings.
“They’re an extremely physical team that manhandled us,” said UNH coach Bill Herrion. “They took us behind the shed and laid it on us.”
Maine junior forward Troy Barnies of Auburn came off the bench to score 14 points — 12 in the second half — and freshman forward Murphy Burnatowski added 10 points to go along with six rebounds.
With two rebounds and five points in the first half, senior guard Junior Bernal became the first player in UMaine men’s program history to score 1,000 points, grab 500 rebounds and have 300 assists in a career.
“It’s definitely great to accomplish those types of goals, but my main focus was the win tonight,” said Bernal, the team’s lone senior. “I’m definitely enjoying this win.”
Maine coach Ted Woodward said that kind of talk isn’t just talk. Woodward wasn’t even sure if Bernal was aware of his historic feat.
“All he did was approach the game tonight the way he always does,” said Woodward. “You don’t get those stats unless you’re a key guy and a leader all the way throughout. It’s a great, great accomplishment and we’re awful proud of him.”
The Black Bears started searing the nets from long distance from the game’s outset as McLemore canned two straight in the first minute. McLemore finished with five on 5-for-6 3-point shooting and the Bears were 8-for-13 overall from the arc in the first half.
“It started right from the opening tip. We didn’t have our matchups early, he hit the first 3, and it was lights out from there,” said Herrion.
McLemore started and finished a 10-0 scoring run with 3-pointers midway through the first half that left Maine leading 30-15 and sparked them to a 43-27 halftime lead.
Maine outshot UNH 54.5 to 33.3 percent from the field overall in the first half and 51.2 to 28.1 percent for the game.
Maine was outrebounded 34-33 overall and 14-2 offensively as UNH outscored the Bears 12-4 in second-chance points, but Maine outscored UNH 22-18 in the paint and had a big advantage on the defensive boards (31-20), limiting the Wildcats to a lot of one-shot-and-done possessions.
“They were the more physical, tougher team and they played with way more purpose in this game than we did,” said Herrion.
Alvin Abreu led the 10-15 (5-9) Wildcats with 17 points and Chandler Rhoads scored 12.
The Bears jumped out to score four straight to open the second half, but the Wildcats cut Maine’s lead to 11 points with a 9-0 run and seemed to be turning momentum around before McLemore hit a 3-pointer from the left wing, drew a foul, and hit the free throw for a four-point play with 15:39 left. The Wildcats never got closer than 14 points the rest of the way.
Maine committed 21 turnovers to UNH’s 14, but the Wildcats employed a full-court press for most of the second half.