NEWARK, N.J. — The defensive woes and rebounding struggles continued Wednesday night for the University of Maine men’s basketball team.
New Jersey Institute of Technology led from start to finish, shooting 47 percent from the field in an 81-72 victory over the Black Bears at the Fleisher Athletic Center.
The Highlanders (5-4) beat UMaine (1-6) for the second time this season after posting an 88-82 win on Nov. 19 in Bangor.
It was the fifth consecutive setback for coach Ted Woodward’s Black Bears, who move on to face 12th-ranked Connecticut on Friday at the XL Center in Hartford, Conn.
Terrence Smith tossed in a game-high 22 points and pulled down eight rebounds to lead NJIT, while Damon Lynn provided 19 points and four assists. Tim Coleman (9 rebounds) and Winfield Willis contributed 13 and 12 points, respectively.
The Highlanders shot 8-for-9 (42 percent on 3-pointers and finished with a 45-32 rebounding advantage. The hosts overcame 23 turnovers that resulted in 29 points for the Bears.
Zarko Valjarevic went 5-for-10 from long range on his way to a team-high 19 points for UMaine. Xavier Pollard returned after serving a one-game suspension for violating team rules and registered a double-double with 18 points and 11 rebounds along with four assists and four steals.
Freshman Garet Beal of Beals Island netted 12 points behind three 3-pointers, while Dimitry Akanda-Coronel wound up with nine points after scoring 29 in the first meeting.
NJIT put UMaine in a bind, opening the second half with a 24-13 run that extended its advantage to 61-41 with 10:34 remaining.
The Highlanders opened the period with a 9-0 spurt that included a Willis 3-pointer, free throws by Coleman and Nigel Sydnor and layups from Lynn and Daquan Holiday that made it 46-28 less than three minutes into the half.
UMaine fought back within eight points at 64-56 on a Shaun Lawton jumper with 6:08 to play, but Smith countered with a layup and the Highlanders kept the upper hand.
NJIT held a 37-28 advantage at halftime after shooting 52 percent from the floor and grabbing a 23-12 rebounding edge.
The Highlanders led from the outset and took an early 11-4 lead behind five points from Coleman. The hosts pushed the margin to 21-10 on Terrance Smith’s layup at the 10:24 mark, before the Black Bears countered.
Akanda-Coronel scored a layup and then threw down a dunk that got UMaine within 21-14 at the 8:48 mark, then Pollard’s layup and a 3-pointer by Valjarevic cut the deficit to 21-19 with 7:50 to play in the half.
However, Lynn and Sydnor responded with 3-pointers to help NJIT surge back to the nine-point halftime lead.
The Highlanders outscored the Bears 24-14 in the paint in the half.