BANGOR, Maine — The Hartford Hawks went into Wednesday night’s game ranked 315th among 345 Division I men’s basketball teams with 64.0 points per game.
Lucky for them, there are only two teams that have given up more points than the 83.6 ppg allowed this season by Wednesday’s opponent, the University of Maine.
Hartford shot a sizzling 65 percent from the floor in the second half and hit 59 percent overall on its way to a convincing 91-79 America East men’s basketball win over UMaine at the Cross Insurance Center.
“We’ve played a lot of games together in this passing, motion offense. You can see the growth of it,” said Hartford coach John Gallagher. “They really trust what we’re doing and they let the offense get them shots instead of them trying to get shots.”
Coach Ted Woodward’s Black Bears (5-19, 3-9 AE) suffered their third straight setback with another forgettable defensive performance that was witnessed by an estimated 400 people.
The Hawks (12-14, 6-5 AE) went 13-for-24 (54 percent) from 3-point range behind five from Taylor Dyson, who finished with 16 points along with teammate Evan Cooper. The visitors were 8-for-11 from the arc in the second half.
“Second half, we got sucked in a little bit too much,” Woodward said. “When their feet are set and they’re balanced, that’s what they do. They make 3-point shots.”
Hartford placed five players in double figures, with Mark Nwakamma netting 15 points, Wes Cole 12 and Nate Sikma 10. Corban Wroe dished out six assists.
UMaine was paced by a career-high 18 points from freshman Garet Beal of Beals Island, who went 5-for-7 from the field and 6-for-6 from the foul line.
“Garet did a great job,” Woodward said.
“We really had to scramble, try to catch up and go to a lot of our pressure and went [with] four guards. Garet certainly did a lot of good things in that sequence,” he added.
Zarko Valjarevic hit four 3’s on his way to 6-for-7 shooting and finished with 16 points, 14 in the second half, while Till Gloger (8 rebounds) and Xavier Pollard (4 assists) tossed in 12 points each.
“I think we got outplayed the whole game. We’re not ready for this type of basketball right now,” Valjarevic said. “We all have to take responsibility, starting with me as a leader.”
UMaine, which shot 53 percent on the night, demonstrated plenty of offensive firepower in the second half, but the Hawks never led by fewer than 10 points.
“In the second half, they started off and they hit the 3-pointers and when we scored, they scored,” Gloger said. “The difference was too big.”
The Hawks held a comfortable 43-29 halftime lead after a dominating 23-3 scoring run, turning a five-point deficit into a 15-point advantage.
The Hawks attacked the basket and made five 3-pointers and they also took good care of the basketball, committing only four turnovers.
UMaine shot 48 percent, but was hampered by 11 turnovers that led to 11 Hartford points.
The Hawks bottled up the middle effectively with their man-to-man defense, but also afforded the hosts only six 3-point attempts, including none by Valjarevic.
Sikma was the catalyst for Hartford’s game-changing spurt. He drained a 3-pointer from the top of the key, then followed with a reverse baseline layup and another 3 that put the Hawks ahead 20-15 with 8:09 to play.
The Bears managed a Christian Ejiga free throw and an eight-footer from the lane by Troy Reid-Knight, but Dyson stuck a 3 and Oren Faulk hit a turnaround from down low, before the Hawks went to the line on four straight trips down the floor.
Hartford made six of eight, then Faulk capped a 13-0 surge with a low-post hoop that gave the Hawks a 33-18 advantage.
UMaine heads back on the road for Saturday’s 2 p.m. game at Albany.