ORONO, Maine — There are many reasons why Boston University was the preseason pick to repeat as the America East men’s basketball champion.
Wednesday night, two of the most prominent “reasons” lit up the University of Maine at Alfond Arena.
Darryl Partin poured in 27 points and backcourt mate D.J. Irving tossed in 23 to carry the Terriers to a 77-68 victory over the Black Bears with a good midweek crowd looking on.
“He’s [Partin] the type of guy when he gets into a rhythm like that, you’ve got to try to find him,” said BU coach Joe Jones.
“When he has it going like that and D.J. has it going like that, we really need to play through those guys,” he added.
Partin scored 24 points during a span of 9½ minutes in the second half to provide the impetus for Boston University’s offensive show.
The Terriers (6-11, 2-1 AE) shot 58 percent (15-for-26) in the second half, including a sizzling 9-for-11 from 3-point land, while taking command.
“He’s a tremendous player,” said UMaine coach Ted Woodward. “We know he’s a first-team all-conference guy, preseason first-team all-conference guy, potential player of the year candidate.”
“D.J. Irving was doing a great job attacking, they were spreading us out with some of the other guys that stepped up and made some 3s,” he added. “I thought they did a great job sharing the basketball.”
Boston University also outrebounded UMaine 36-30 and scored 19 points as a result of an uncharacteristic 15 turnovers by the Bears.
UMaine (8-6, 2-1 AE) could not find the defensive answers to Boston University’s high-powered guard tandem. The hosts also had trouble operating against the Terriers’ solid man-to-man defense.
“That’s a mature basketball team that was picked to win our league and they certainly proved why, I believe, tonight,” Woodward said.
The Bears played well in the first half, but Irving banked in a half-court heave as time expired to trim UMaine’s lead from nine points to six (33-27). It proved to be the spark for the Terriers’ fireworks.
“That was huge,” Partin conceded.
“I’m not saying that it deflated us, but it certainly got them energized to have that type of thing,” Woodward agreed. “All of a sudden they’re down six instead of down nine and they really came out in the second half with a lot of energy.”
Partin wound up going 6-for-7 from beyond the arc and Irving complemented his offense with a career-high 11 assists. Matt Griffin contributed 10 points.
McLemore paced a balanced but somewhat disjointed UMaine offense with 17 points, while Alasdair Fraser contributed 14 points and eight rebounds. Justin Edwards posted 10 points, 10 rebounds and six assists, while Mike Allison added 10 points.
The Bears shot 52 percent (28-for-54) for the night and racked up 21 assists on 28 field goals.
The Terriers established plenty of confidence during a pivotal 18-6 run early in the second half.
UMaine led 35-27 when Irving, who scored 14 points prior to intermission, kicked off the surge with a 16-foot jumper. Partin, who went 1-for-10 from the field in the first half, then opened his personal barrage with a 10-foot runner from the lane.
Edwards dunked a McLemore miss to counter for the Bears, but two Patrick Hazel free throws and a Partin 3-pointer in transition got BU within a point at 37-36 with 17:50 to play.
After UMaine’s Allison made a layup and BU’s Travis Robinson stuck a 3-pointer, Partin and Malik Thomas hit back-to-back 3s to put the Terriers in front for good at 45-41.
McLemore said Partin’s teammates were effective in getting him open and he made the shots.
“Second half, they started calling a lot of double screens for him, stagger screens,” McLemore explained. “It’s very difficult to stay on his hip. I give credit to the big guys, they definitely wanted to seek out the guard. They don’t screen an area, they screen a man, so he definitely got hot. All credit to him, he’s a tremendous player.”
Partin and Co. eventually extended the margin to 17 points during a 15-0 burst that included a layup and three 3-pointers by Partin during a span of 3 1/2 minutes.
“The first half I knew I was missing a lot of shots and I was like, man, come on. I couldn’t wait for the second half to start,” Partin said.
“You’ve just got to keep confident, keep playing through it,” he added.
The Bears didn’t fold and fought back to make it a two-possession game in the final minute, but the Terriers held on.
In the first half, UMaine limited the Terriers to 32 percent shooting (11-for-34) with a defensive combination of man-to-man and a 3-2 matchup zone.
Irving was able to work himself free to the tune of 14 points on 6-for-9 shooting, but the rest of the Terriers combined to shoot 5-for-23 from the floor.
The Bears were tested by BU’s defense, but excelled with their transition game.
UMaine surged out to a 10-point lead with an 11-2 run late in the half. McLemore opened the spurt with an 18-foot jumper, then Edwards threw in a baseline runner. McLemore drained a 3-pointer in transition before Irving broke the skein with a nifty finger roll in the lane.
However, Fraser made a baseline layup off a McLemore feed and McLemore scored from close range on a pass from Edwards to make it 31-21 with 2:35 left in the half.