ORONO, Maine — The University of Maine had an opportunity Sunday afternoon to demonstrate its readiness to become a serious contender in America East.
Instead, Stony Brook proved why it is the team to beat again this season.
The first-place Seawolves manufactured an early lead and never let the Black Bears get back into the contest, earning a 69-53 men’s basketball victory on “Senior Day” at Alfond Arena.
“I thought we did a good job with our defense, making life difficult for them,” said Stony Brook coach Steve Pikiell. “I’m just happy to get a good road win and move on.”
Coach Ted Woodward’s UMaine ballclub (11-17, 6-9 AE) did not appear to have an adequate level of energy to be able to give first-place Stony Brook (21-6, 12-2 AE) a serious challenge.
“I didn’t think we played with the intensity we need to [have] today, top to bottom,” Woodward said.
“I didn’t have our guys ready for 40 minutes of their physicality today and we need to be able to get to that point as we get to the tournament,” he added.
Tommy Brenton churned out 13 points, 19 rebounds and seven assists to propel the Seawolves, who shot 42 percent from the floor and outrebounded the Bears 45-41.
Stony Brook outscored UMaine 44-28 in the paint, scored 16 second-chance points and tallied 13 points off 12 turnovers.
“They’re really well-rounded: Inside, outside and midrange,” said Bears senior forward MIke Allison, who provided eight points, six rebounds and a blocked shot in his last home game.
“It was exciting,” he said. “I wish I was feeling better, but it was a lot of fun. I’m going to miss it here.”
Freshman forward Jameel Warney posted 15 points, seven rebounds, three steals and two blocks, while Dave Coley tossed in 12 points for Stony Brook.
Junior forward Alasdair Fraser paced UMaine with 15 points, seven rebounds and three blocks. Sophomore guard Xavier Pollard registered a double-double with 10 points and 11 rebounds, while classmate Justin Edwards finished with 12 points, six rebounds and three assists.
Freshman Shaun Lawton chipped in five points, three rebounds and two assists. Senior Jon McAllian of Bangor also played his final home game.
“Our offense kind of felt stagnant,” Fraser said. “They were getting us out of our offense and, a lot of times, when it was breaking down we were standing and watching. Then, the intensity goes away from there.”
The Seawolves wasted little time setting the tone, combining gritty defense with crisp offensive execution and a quick-striking transition game. Stony Brook shot 50 percent (14-for-28) from the field in the first half, led by 10 points from Coley.
Leading 7-6, the Seawolves moved in front with an early 12-2 surge. Brenton and Warney scored rebound baskets, then Carson Puriefoy (8 points) answered a baseline dunk by Fraser with a driving layup.
Warney’s foul shot, a 3-pointer by Rouse and Coley’s eight-foot runner from the paint gave the visitors a 19-8 lead with 9:17 left in the half.
“This is a team you’ve got to play 40 minutes [against],” Woodward said. “You can’t allow them to get a little bit of a comfortable lead and be playing uphill basketball against them.”
UMaine could not establish a consistent offensive rhythm. The hosts committed eight turnovers in the half and trailed by as many as 15 points.
However, Pollard sank two foul shots and Lawton knocked down a 3-pointer at the horn to get the Bears within 35-25 at halftime.
Stony Brook made sure UMaine wasn’t able to capitalize on that emotional boost. The Seawolves outscored the Bears 20-7 over the first 7 ½ minutes of the second half to build a 20-point advantage.
Brenton accounted for eight points during the run and also provided an assist and a steal.
“Tommy Brenton was good today. He did a little bit of everything for us,” Pikiell said.
UMaine manufactured a 16-5 surge of its own behind the aggressive play of Pollard. He attacked off the dribble and scored six points to help the Bears get within 12 at 60-48, but Stony Brook didn’t let it get any closer.
“They’re a very physical basketball team. They take you out of your [offensive sets],” Woodward said.
UMaine closes out the regular season Sunday at New Hampshire.