ORONO, Maine — The University of Maine men’s basketball team returned home for the first time since Nov. 27 and received 36 points from the dynamic backcourt tandem of senior Gerald McLemore and freshman Justin Edwards to carve out a 77-60 win over Utah Valley at the Memorial Gym on Monday night.
McLemore had a game-high 19 points and Edwards had 17 to go with seven rebounds and five assists as Maine improved to 4-4.
Utah Valley, which made the trip to Orono after playing a home game on Saturday night, fell to 6-7.
Maine held a 17-point lead at the half and went on an 11-1 run to start the second half and expand the lead to 56-29.
But the determined Wolverines used an impressive 23-4 spurt to cut the lead to eight behind 2010-11 Great West Conference Player of the Year and honorable mention All-American Isiah Williams’ eight points and Ben Aird’s seven.
With the score 62-54, McLemore converted a pair of layups off passes from Alasdair Fraser and Raheem Singleton, respectively, to give Maine some valuable breathing room. Maine led by at least 10 the rest of the way.
McLemore said the layups were important because they “stopped the bleeding. We had been rushing our shots.”
Edwards added, “We had been panicking but once we calmed down, we started getting open shots (and hitting them),” said Edwards.
Keith Thompson’s 3-pointer with 4:35 left reduced the lead to 68-58 but Edwards sliced along the base line to convert an offensive rebound, Kilian Cato nailed a 3-pointer from the top of the key, Fraser put home an offensive rebound and Edwards capped a 9-0 spurt with a nifty over-the-shoulder pass to Fraser for an easy bucket.
Fraser had 12 points and five rebounds for Maine and Mike Allison, playing in his first game of the season after sustaining a concussion and a hand injury, contributed 11 to go with six blocks and seven rebounds. Andrew Rogers had five assists.
“I’m glad to be back,” said Allison. “I was a little winded but I felt pretty good.
“We buckled down when the game got close. We got some big stops and finished at the other end,” added Allison who played 29 minutes.
McLemore said Allison’s return to the lineup was vital.
“Any time your bigs (big men) play well down low, that helps (the guards) out a lot,” said McLemore.
McLemore also did an impressive job guarding Williams, who was held to 11 points, 6.5 below his average.
“I knew he liked the base line from playing him last year so I tried to take it away from him and force him to the middle,” explained McLemore.
“He did a reasonable job on me,” acknowledged Williams. “We had a good battle. I tried to shut him down in the second half.”
McLemore had seven second-half points after scoring 12 in the first half.
“McLemore’s a good player. He has a future in this game (after college),” said Utah Valley head coach Dick Hunsaker. “There isn’t anyone in the country who is better at preparing for the shot and delivering it.”
Aird’s 13 points and game-high eight rebounds and three steals paced Utah Valley. Geddes Robinson had 11 points to match Williams’ total. Robinson also had four rebounds as did Thompson, who finished with nine points.
Edwards and McLemore combined for 25 first-half points to help Maine build its 45-28 intermission lead.
The Bears used 65 percent shooting from the floor to build a 31-14 lead 10 minutes into the first half and they eventually expanded it to 37-15.
Reserve guards Keawe Enos and Kevin Woods came off the bench to rally the Wolverines with an 11-2 run.
Enos hit a layup and a 3-pointer and, after Allison converted an Edwards pass from the baseline, Woods hit from the top of the key and fed Thompson for an alley-oop before passing to Zach Jones for a basket under the hoop.
Maine capped the first half with a 6-2 run on Fraser’s tip-in, Edwards’ driving layup off an Allison assist and Svetoslav Chetinov’s lefthanded hook.
Maine connected on its first five 3-pointers and went 5-for-7 in the half.
“Maine is a good team. They did a nice job with their shot selection, their hit their shots and they took us out of our offense,” said Hunsaker.
“We came out sluggish and there’s no excuse for it,” said Williams.
“We can play a lot better,” said Robinson. “But Maine has a pretty good team and they play as a unit.”
Maine coach Ted Woodward was pleased with the win, saying the Bears “got contributions from everyone” and that they needed it against a “good” Utah Valley team.
Maine shot 54 percent from the floor to Utah Valley’s 40.4 percent and out-rebounded the Wolverines 39-31.