VESTAL, N.Y. — The University of Maine fought all the way back after trailing by 22 points in the first half Saturday night, scoring 45 points after the break to pull out a 77-74 America East men’s basketball victory over Binghamton at the Events Center.
A crowd of 3,868 turned out to watch coach Ted Woodward’s Black Bears (14-7, 8-1 AE) claim their seventh consecutive win and hold onto first place in the conference standings.
UMaine was able to overcome a subpar first-half defensive performance during which Binghamton went 9-for-17 from 3-point range and shot 53 percent from the floor.
The Bearcats (6-16, 3-6 AE) shot 44 percent from the floor in the contest, including 13-for-28 (46 percent) from beyond the 3-point arc.
However, UMaine outscored Binghamton 18-1 from the foul line, going 18-for-24 (75 percent).
Junior guard Gerald McLemore paced the Bears with a game-high 23 points. He hit five of seven 3-pointers and also grabbed seven rebounds.
Junior point guard Raheem Singleton tossed in 17 points and handed out seven assists, while senior Troy Barnies of Auburn contributed 11 points and seven rebounds and Murphy Burnatowski 10 points and six boards.
Mike Allison added seven points and four blocked shots for the Bears, who shot 48 percent from the floor and overcame 12 turnovers.
Mahamoud Jabbi sparked Binghamton with 19 points and 10 rebounds. Kyrie Sutton tallied 15 points, Moussa Camara netted 14 and Jimmy Gray racked up 10 points and 12 assists.
UMaine returns to action Tuesday night with a game at Boston University.
The Bears spent most of the second half chipping away at Binghamton’s lead. UMaine tightened up its defense, especially on the perimeter, holding the hosts to 34 percent shooting in the final 20 minutes.
That included 4-for-11 shooting on 3-pointers.
UMaine rattled off a 10-2 run to trim a 13-point deficit to 59-54 with 12:02 left. Burnatowski sparked that surge with six points, including a dunk off a Barnies assist.
Binghamton held off the Bears until a layup by Barnies and Singleton’s layup made it 71-71 with 3:22 remaining. UMaine grabbed the lead for good (73-71) on an Allison dunk with 1:34 to play.
After a missed 3-pointer by Binghamton’s Chretien Lukusa, Singleton made one free throw to make it a three-point game with 36 seconds to go. Jabbi missed a 3-pointer and Singleton followed with one foul shot to make it 75-71 with 21 seconds left.
UMaine put the game away when Barnies rebounded Lukusa’s missed 3 and fed McLemore for the clinching layup with five seconds to play.
The Bearcats had stormed to a 25-10 lead in the game’s first 8:05 behind the 6-foot-9 Sutton, who scored his team’s first 10 points from in the paint. Jabbi also was an early catalyst, scoring 10 of the next 15 points in the hosts’ dominating stretch.
Binghamton eventually extended its advantage to 39-17 on a Gray 3-pointer with 7:10 left in the half. However, the Bears outscored the Bearcats 15-6 headed into intermission, sparked by two McLemore 3-pointers, to get within striking distance at 45-32.