ORONO, Maine — Defensive lapses continue to cause big problems for the University of Maine men’s basketball team.
The Black Bears had difficulty locking down defensively Saturday afternoon and a versatile Marist team took advantage while earning a 77-71 victory at Memorial Gym.
The contest was part of the ESPN Sears BracketBusters event.
Marist shot 52 percent, including 8-for-15 accuracy from the 3-point line, in an efficient offensive performance. The Red Foxes (11-16) of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference rattled off points in bursts to maintain the lead throughout the last 33 minutes.
UMaine senior Gerald McLemore said it came down to consistency of defensive effort.
“It’s energy for 40 minutes, it really is, just being focused the whole time,” said McLemore, who scored 17 second-half points to spearhead 11-15 UMaine’s late challenge.
“We kind of lose focus here and there,” he added. “We’ll get in a lull for five minutes and in Division I that’s too long.”
The Red Foxes presented some matchup problems for the Bears with their overall quickness and balanced scoring. Marist demonstrated excellent chemistry against UMaine’s 3-2 matchup zone and its man-to-man defense.
“They’ve got a lot of good players on that team, they’re very athletic,” said UMaine coach Ted Woodward. “They’ve got a number of guys that can shoot it. They present a lot of mismatch problems.”
Marist jumped in front with an 11-2 spurt in the first half that gave it an eight-point lead. UMaine cut the deficit to two points on three occasions, including once with 6:17 to play, but was unable to equalize.
Chavaughn Lewis poured in 24 points on 10-for-16 shooting and contributed nine rebounds and five assists to spark the Red Foxes. Devin Price scored 16 points, while Manny Thomas (6 rebounds, 4 assists) and Isaiah Morton netted 10 points each for Marist, which racked up 22 assists on its 29 baskets.
“It took us awhile to get our bearings on matchups,” said UMaine junior Mike Allison, who posted 12 points and 12 rebounds.
“If we had adapted earlier, played a little bit harder, I think we could have come up with a win,” he said.
McLemore finished with 20 points to lead UMaine, which received 12 points from Justin Edwards and 11 points, five assists and three steals from Raheem Singleton. Alaisdair Fraser pulled down nine rebounds, but shot 3-for-13.
The Bears outrebounded the Red Foxes 37-34, including 13 offensive boards.
Marist, which led by 12 at halftime, pushed its advantage to 50-35 with 15:18 to play on six straight points from Devin Price.
UMaine rallied behind the inside play of Allison, who scored six consecutive points in 57 seconds, including a dunk on an offensive rebound, to give the Bears some life.
Two minutes later, UMaine got some stops during a 9-0 burst capped by Xavier Pollard’s steal and layup that made it 59-52. UMaine continued its push and crept within two (64-62) on Fraser’s short turnaround from the paint with 6:17 left.
However, Marist withstood the charge and eventually rattled off seven unanswered points to put the game away.
“I thought that there were moments that we could have caved in,” said Marist coach Chuck Martin.
“When they made a run, we kept our composure,” he added. “We just kind of hung in there. We didn’t panic.”
The Bears found themselves trailing 39-27 at halftime after a lackluster defensive effort.
Marist executed crisply and shot well, going 16-for-31 (52 percent) from the field. Lewis was the catalyst with 16 points on 7-for-11 shooting.
Marist pulled out to a 19-11 advantage behind an 11-2 burst. It included three baskets by Lewis — a 12-footer, an eight-foot pullup jumper and a baseline hoop off an ally-oop pass from R.J. Hall.
The Bears rallied back to within two (24-22) on an Edwards dunk off an inbounds play, but Isaiah Morton hit two of three consecutive 3-pointers by Marist that helped push the lead back to 10.