The Quinnipiac University Bobcats were a unanimous pick among the league’s men’s basketball coaches to win the Northeast Conference this season. They were the first unanimous selection since Long Island University at the outset of the 1997-98 team.
The Bobcats showed why on Monday night, using a 10-0 run over a span of 5:09 late in the second half to subdue the University of Maine Black Bears 75-67 at the TD Bank Sports Center in Hamden, Conn.
Quinnipiac, which went 23-10 and played in the National Invitation Tournament a year ago, improved to 4-1 while the Black Bears fell to 2-3.
The Black Bears led by as many as nine in the first half and took a 39-34 lead into the intermission.
But the Bobcats outscored Maine 41-28 in the second half, limiting the Black Bears to 25.9 percent shooting from the floor over the final 20 minutes.
James Johnson had a game-high 20 points for the winners, and he also hauled down seven rebounds and dished out five assists. Dave Johnson scored 14 points, Deontay Twyman had 13 along with five rebounds and Justin Rutty finished with 12 points and a game-high eight rebounds.
Raheem Singleton scored a career-high 18 points and dished out three assists for the Black Bears. Terrance Mitchell, playing in his first game after returning from a broken finger, contributed 16 points, and Alasdair Fraser had a career-high 12 points to go with four blocked shots. Troy Barnies had nine points and five rebounds.
The Black Bears were without veteran guard Gerald McLemore, who was sidelined due to illness.
Maine was holding a 52-51 lead with 8:44 remaining after a Singleton layup before Quinnipiac went on its decisive 10-0 run.
Twyman’s jump shot triggered the spree before Dave Johnson and Rutty each hit a pair of free throws, James Johnson nailed a jumper and Dave Johnson finished it off with another jumper with 3:54 remaining.
Mitchell hit a pair of free throws to snap the scoreless stretch and his 3-pointer with 2:24 remaining sliced the lead to 63-59.
But Twyman and Dave Johnson sandwiched a pair of free throws apiece around a Maine miss to give the Bobcats some breathing room.
Quinnipiac outrebounded Maine 43-30, including a 19-9 edge in offensive rebounds. Quinnipiac outscored Maine 15-3 in second-chance points.
“They’re a very good basketball team,” said Maine coach Ted Woodward. “We knew we’d have to play an awfully good basketball game to beat them.
“They did a great job keeping us off the boards. They’re an awfully good rebounding team. They’re very physical.”
Woodward credited the Bobcats for the decisive stretch.
“We took some questionable shots during that (10-0) sequence. We weren’t in rhythm,” he said. “But you have to credit them with making us force up some shots. And they scored on five or six consecutive possessions.”
He praised the efforts turned in by Singleton and Fraser.
Woodward said the Bears definitely missed McLemore but didn’t use that as an excuse for the loss.
“Those things happen in sports. We have plenty of other players who are capable of stepping up,” said Woodward, whose Bears will return to action at 2 p.m. Saturday when they host Brown University.