CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. — Zarko Valjarevic nailed a 3-pointer with 31 seconds left in overtime to give Maine a four-point lead and the Black Bears held on for an 89-85 men’s basketball victory over the Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders during the Dr. Pepper Classic Sunday night.
The win snapped the Bears’ eight-game losing streak and they are now 2-9 while the Blue Raiders are 8-5.
Dimitry Akanda-Coronel paced the Bears with 27 points, eight rebounds and four assists while Valjarevic finished with 20 points and five assists.
Both players sparked Maine’s accurate 3-point shooting attack as Coronel was 5 of 8 from 3-point land while Valjarevic nailed 4 of 6 as the Bears finished with a 63.6 percent effort (14 of 22).
Kilian Cato, who was on academic suspension, returned for his first game of the season and gave the Bears an offensive boost as he finished with 12 points and four rebounds and gave Maine a scoring edge from its bench as the Maine subs outscored their Blue Raiders counterparts 26-15.
Xavier Pollard, Maine’s leading scorer, didn’t make the trip due to an ankle injury. Garet Beal also didn’t play as his status is day to day due to a leg injury that also caused him to miss the Dartmouth game.
The Blue Raiders turned in a balanced offensive attack with 20 points from Neiko Hunter and 18 from Jaqawn Raymond. Shawn Jones added 16 points and Kerry Hammonds put in 12.
Jones also grabbed 20 rebounds, helping Middle Tennessee control the inside game with a 52-35 rebounding advantage.
After Valjarevic’s 3-pointer gave Maine a four-point edge in the overtime period, Hammonds answered for the Blue Raiders with a layup to cut the lead to 86-84 with 17 seconds left in the game.
The teams then exchanged turnovers before Valjarevic made one of two free throws with 10 seconds left and Raymond made one of two for the Blue Raiders four seconds later.
Shaun Lawton then hit two free throws for the Bears with five seconds remaining to secure the victory.
Maine will play at 6:30 p.m. Monday against the winner of Sunday’s second game between tourney host Chattanooga and Grand Canyon University.