The University of Maine men’s basketball team has entered a difficult portion of its schedule.
Tuesday night’s game at Boston University marks the second of back-to-back road games amidst a stretch that will include four of five games away from Orono.
Coach Ted Woodward’s Black Bears (14-7) received their first big test Saturday at Binghamton, where they found themselves facing a 22-point deficit in the first half. UMaine kept its composure, buckled down, and eventually pulled out a 77-74 victory.
“We were just ecstatic,” said UMaine junior Gerald McLemore. “It was really a gut-check win. It was a heart win. It was all of us (working) together.”
The Bears also emerged from the weekend as the No. 25 team in the CollegeInsider.com Mid-Major Top 25 poll released Monday.
Binghamton came out firing and seized the momentum immediately in front of a large, partisan home crowd of 3,868.
“They had a huge crowd. It was a big night for them,” McLemore said. “They were shooting the ball well. They were on fire.”
Rather than succumb to the adversity in the hostile environment, the Bears maintained their poise and got refocused.
UMaine was back within 13 at halftime after a couple of timeouts and some calm discussion on the sidelines.
“To our credit, I don’t think our guys really panicked that much,” said Woodward, who credited the Bearcats with playing extremely well. “We took a couple of timeouts and tried to get ourselves organized.”
Woodward tried to remind his players to approach the rest of the game one possession at a time and not get overwhelmed by the early deficit and the fact Binghamton was playing well.
The key for UMaine was buckling down defensively, contesting shots and cuts, and working harder to rebound the ball.
The Bears continued to chip away during the second half. Eventually, they tied the game, then went ahead, then finished it off in the closing seconds.
“Give our guys a ton of credit,” Woodward said. “It’s one of the hardest places on our league to play. To come back and stick together and have a number of guys come in and give us some fantastic performances, it certainly was a great team win.”
In addition to the usual contributions of 3-point shooter McLemore, post threat Troy Barnies of Auburn and dynamic point guard Raheem Singleton, the Bears received timely contributions in key areas from small forward Murphy Burnatowski and post player Mike Allison.
“There was a nice calmness about it,” Woodward said of the comeback.
“We just played the possessions and didn’t play the score,” he added.
UMaine encounters another loud, hostile environment Tuesday night at Boston University in a contest that will be televised on Comcast SportsNet New England.
UM vs. Siena in ‘BracketBusters’
The UMaine men have been paired against Siena in the ESPNU BracketBusters tournament scheduled for next month.
The Bears will travel to Loudonville, N.Y., for the Feb. 19 contest against Siena College of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference. As of Monday, the Saints were 9-12 overall and 6-5 in MAAC play (sixth place).
UMaine is one of five America East teams in the field of 114 that will participate in the three-day event. Defending league champion Vermont (No. 85 in the Rating Percentage Index) plays Feb. 19 at the College of Charleston on ESPNU-TV.
Boston University earned a home game against Canisius, Stony Brook plays a home contest against Manhattan and New Hampshire visits Marist in three other games pitting America East teams against the MAAC.
Bowdoin’s Bergeron scores 1,000th
Katie Bergeron on Saturday became the 11th Bowdoin College women’s basketball player to eclipse the 1,000-point career scoring plateau.
The senior guard from Bradley scored a team-high 12 points for the Polar Bears in a 72-48 loss to top-ranked Amherst College at Amherst, Mass.
Bergeron scored points No. 1,000 and 1,001 when she made two free throws with 13:42 remaining in the game.
She ranks second on the team, averaging 10.2 points per game, and has made a team-best 40 steals. Bergeron is Bowdoin’s No. 2 assist-disher at 3.2 per outing.