ORONO, Maine — Stony Brook went into Memorial Gym on Saturday with the most effective defense in America East.
With the University of Maine trying to work out some offensive kinks, the first-place Seawolves again demonstrated their defensive prowess.
Stony Brook slowed down UMaine with its aggressive, physical style and registered a 58-52 victory.
“It was a grinder. That’s how they play,” said UMaine coach Ted Woodward. “They just make it hard offensively. They really are very physical.”
The Black Bears (8-10, 2-5 AE) dropped their fifth consecutive game despite a solid defensive performance. UMaine held Stony Brook to 33 percent shooting.
“It was a hard game on both ends,” said freshman Justin Edwards, who paced UMaine with 14 points, nine rebounds and seven assists.
“Our main goal was to come out and play good defense and we thought we did,” he added.
The Bears’ chemistry issues were complicated by the loss of junior forward Mike Allison to a right leg injury in the first half. UMaine also played the second half with senior Gerald McLemore, its leading scorer, relegated to the bench.
“Coach’s decision,” Woodward said of the move.
McLemore scored three points in 15 minutes of action.
Stony Brook won with man-to-man defense and tenacious rebounding. UMaine shot 36 percent, but clanged its way to a 5-for-23 performance from the 3-point arc.
Freshman guard Xavier Pollard came off the bench to give UMaine an emotional spark. He finished with a career-best 14 points and nine rebounds.
Senior guard Raheem Singleton chipped in with 13 points, including three second-half 3-pointers. Senior forward Travon Wilcher came up with eight rebounds and four blocked shots and Alasdair Fraser had eight points.
“Definitely there are a bunch of different players that can help out,” Edwards said. “X [Pollard] coming off the bench provided a great lift and then Tra [Wilcher] coming in and giving a great lift. We just have to use all our tools together and we should be good.”
Dallis Joyner headed a well-balanced effort for Stony Brook with 10 points, while Tommy Brenton posted nine points, 15 rebounds, four assists and four steals. Brian Dougher and Dave Coley each added nine points and five rebounds for the Seawolves.
UMaine committed a season-high 22 turnovers that led to 16 points for the Seawolves. Stony Brook outrebounded UMaine 43-40, but its 17 offensive boards resulted in 12 second-chance points.
“You look at the points off turnovers, points off second shots. Those are the two physical areas where they were able to get us,” Woodward said.
The Seawolves outscored the Black Bears 17-6 early in the second half to take the lead for good.
Coley sank two free throws, Joyner scored off a low-post move, Dougher buried a 3-pointer in transition and Coley hit a runner from the lane to give the Seawolves a 31-24 lead with 15:41 remaining.
Singleton countered for UMaine by canning 3-pointers 44 seconds apart, but Eric McAlister’s 15-foot turnaround started an 8-0 run that gave Stony Brook a 39-30 advantage with 11:10 left.
The Seawolves extended the lead to as many as 13 points and the Bears couldn’t overcome the deficit.
“Sometimes [in] these games you just have to go and try to grind out a win,” said Stony Brook coach Steve Pikiell. “We were fortunate enough to do that today.”
The first half was characterized by poor shooting, turnovers and fouls. The game was scoreless for nearly the first six minutes.
The Bears emerged with a 22-20 halftime lead.
UMaine uncharacteristically coughed the ball up 14 times in the half, but Stony Brook only managed nine points as a result. The Seawolves committed 11 turnovers of their own.
“That’s the most turnovers we’ve had in a long time, but give them credit,” Woodward said. “They’re always reaching, grabbing, going for the basketball, getting you off your spots. We’ve got to continue to be stronger in those situations.”
The Bears led by as many as five points after four Singleton free throws helped fuel a 9-3 run. Pollard hit a short bank-in from the baseline and Edwards swished a 3-pointer as UMaine went up 17-12 with 6:35 left in the half.
However, Joyner answered with a botched dunk that rolled through the net and an offensive rebound basket that kept the Bears from extending the lead.
“I was happy to see, no question, our intensity,” Woodward said. “Our effort obviously was drastically different than [Thursday] night.”
UMaine returns to the court Wednesday at New Hampshire.