ORONO — The University of Maine’s defense suffered from a bit of a holiday hangover Thursday night.
Columbia University shot 48 percent from the field, including 7-for-15 on 3-pointers, but had to hold on for a 74-71 men’s basketball victory over the Black Bears at Alfond Arena.
Senior co-captain Troy Barnies of Auburn poured in a career-high 25 points and snatched 11 rebounds to spearhead a second-half charge for UMaine (6-6), which nearly wiped out a 17-point deficit during the last 7 1/2 minutes.
However, Barnies’ desperation runner from beyond the 3-point line glanced off the rim as time expired as the Lions snapped the Bears’ four-game winning streak.
“To win on the road, you have to play great,” said Columbia coach Kyle Smith. “To beat this team, that’s tremendous.”
The Lions (7-4) won their fourth in a row, clamping down on UMaine’s perimeter shooters while demonstrating outstanding balance of their own on the offensive end.
Mark Cisco scored 11 of his team-high 15 points in the second half to help Columbia build a 63-46 cushion with 7:28 to play. The Lions placed three other players in double figures, including Noruwa Agho (13 points, 9 assists), Brian Barbour (12 points, 6 assists) and Steve Egee (10 points).
“Give Columbia credit. I thought they had a lot of guys step up and make a lot of shots,” said UMaine coach Ted Woodward. “For a team that prides itself on defense, we had trouble stopping them tonight. I just thought we were a little lethargic coming out and needed to get some energy going.”By the time the energy surfaced, Columbia was up 17 points. That didn’t prevent Barnies from throwing the Bears on his back down the stretch.
The 6-foot-7 forward scored nine points to spark a 17-4 flurry, converting a three-point play that got UMaine within 67-63 with 3:11 left.
“I think, out of this team, I hate losing the most,” Barnies said. “I hope that kind of showed that I’m not willing to give up in anything.”
UMaine helped change the flow of the game with its trapping defensive pressure, which forced the Lions into some quick shots. The hosts also rebounded hard and forced the tempo in transition.
Egee hit a huge 3-pointer with 2:50 remaining to push the Lions’ lead back to seven, but Barnies scored six of the next eight UMaine points.
Raheem Singleton made the front end of a two-shot foul situation, but then missed the second with 33.8 to play.
Cisco made one of two at 31.2 to make it 73-71, before Alasdair Fraser’s close-range shot rolled across the rim and off, leading to a UMaine foul.
“I’m very pleased with the looks we had in the last 30 seconds to give ourselves an opportunity to win,” Woodward said. “We’ve got to do a better job taking care of the basketball and a better job at the defensive end of the court.”
Egee made one foul shot with 3.5 seconds left, setting up Barnies’ last-ditch shot.
“That guy was a one-man wrecking crew,” Smith said of Barnies.
“He was not going to let them lose and I was certain that 3 was going in at the end.”
UMaine received 11 points and four assists from Singleton, Murphy Burnatowski added nine points and tenacious defense, and Fraser finished with eight points and seven rebounds.
The Bears shot 46 percent from the floor, but were 4-for-15 from 3-point distance and committed 14 turnovers that led to 19 Columbia points.
UMaine opens the America East Conference schedule Sunday with a 1 p.m. home game against Boston University.
The Bears were without sophomore reserve shooting guard Jon McAllian of Bangor, who took an inadvertent elbow to the face during Wednesday’s practice.
Columbia made its move early in the second half. Agho scored six points and seven Lions contributed at least a basket during a 22-9 run that turned a 39-36 edge with 17:29 to play into a 59-43 advantage at the 9:31 mark.
“We played in some pockets tonight, but we certainly didn’t put the 40-minute effort out that we have been putting out as of late,” Woodward said.
Shortly after the Columbia surge, Barnies didn’t like the way some of the Bears’ heads were hanging a little bit.
” I hate seeing that from my guys,” he said. “Part of being a captain is to get my guys up and bring the energy during the game. I did that most of the second half and tried to get the win, tried to catch up, but we fell short.”
The Lions led 35-28 at the break after playing a crisp first 20 minutes.