ORONO, Maine — Gerardo Suero scored 11 baskets Saturday afternoon at Alfond Arena. Eight of those were layups or a dunk.
The slippery junior guard from the Dominican Republic was an unstoppable force as he slashed his way through the University of Maine defense on his way to a game-high 28 points to spark the Great Danes to a 76-68 America East men’s basketball victory.
Suero shot 50 percent (11-for-22) from the field and also posted six assists and three steals as the Great Danes (16-12, 8-6 AE) snapped a three-game losing streak.
“We knew that was our main concern on the defensive end was keeping up with him, but you’ve got to give him credit,” said UMaine’s Gerald McLemore. “He scores kind of easy.”
Coach Ted Woodward’s UMaine ballclub (11-13, 5-8 AE) dropped its third straight contest.
It was a bittersweet day for McLemore. The senior guard went 7-for-10 from the floor, including 4-for-7 from long range, to become UMaine’s all-time leader in 3-pointers (313). He tallied 19 points on the day.
McLemore’s bomb with 4:28 to play lifted him past former star Kevin Reed (311).
“I’m proud of it, it’s hard work, but at the end of the day we lost and that’s the thing that matters,” McLemore said.
The game also marked the return of sophomore center Alasdair Fraser, who missed the previous two contests with a sprained right ankle. He led UMaine with 21 points on 10-for-13 shooting.
Yet it was Suero and the Great Danes who stole the show.
Albany’s 2-2-1 full-court pressure helped create several of UMaine’s 17 turnovers and those miscues led directly to 22 points by the visitors. The Great Danes utilized their quick-striking transition game to beat the Bears down the floor and generate several high-quality scoring chances.
Albany also outworked UMaine on the boards, grabbing a 35-27 edge that included 16 offensive rebounds that resulted in 22 second-chance points.
“To me, those are the two biggest stats you’re going to see in that basketball game,” Woodward said. “They got us on the glass and they converted our turnovers into baskets.”
Luke Devlin registered 13 points and five rebounds for Albany, while Mike Black netted 11 points. Jacob Iati finished with eight points and Blake Metcalf added five points, five rebounds, four assists, two steals and a blocked shot.
Justin Edwards posted 11 points, five rebounds, four assists and a steal and Raheem Singleton added 10 points, five rebounds and seven assists without a turnover for the Bears.
UMaine shot 73 percent (16-for-22) from the floor in the second half and 53 percent for the game.
Fraser scored UMaine’s first 12 points, staking the hosts to an early five-point edge.
“They weren’t really playing me for the midrange jump shot, so after I hit the first one, I knew I could start hitting them, so I just kept going until I missed,” Fraser said.
However, Albany took advantage of its transition attack to build a 36-25 halftime advantage.
Black opened a key 12-0 surge with a 10-footer from the lane, then Jayson Guerrier scored from underneath off a long pass from Blake Metcalf. Suero followed with a fast-break layup that resulted in a conventional three-point play, before Devlin hit a short runner in the paint and drained a 3-pointer in transition to put Albany on top 21-14 with 9:12 left in the half.
Albany found plenty of room in the lane with its crisp cuts and good passing, scoring 22 points in the paint and grabbing eight offensive rebounds that led to 12 second-chance points.
“They do a great job attacking the basket. They get to the free throw line a lot,” Woodward said.
“Unfortunately, I thought we were a little sloppy in the first half (with) some of our turnovers,” he added. “We tried to force the issue a little too much.”
UMaine opened the second half with a 7-2 run that got it within seven at 39-32, but that was as close as the Bears would get.
Albany later held UMaine (three turnovers) scoreless for more than 5 1/2 minutes. Suero had two hoops, including a fast-break dunk, during an 8-0 spurt that gave the Great Danes a 53-38 bulge with 10:26 to play.
“In the second half, there’s a couple times we got some stops and we just couldn’t get the rebound,” Woodward said. “We were doing a better job scoring, but we also had some turnovers in that stretch.”
UMaine returns to action Wednesday night at Hartford.