If there was any doubt whether Bob Walsh had his work cut out for him in inheriting the University of Maine men’s basketball team, it was erased on Saturday night.
Turnovers helped turn the tide as the University of Southern Maine executed down the stretch to earn a 78-73 victory over the Black Bears in an exhibition game at Hill Gymnasium in Gorham.
Zach Leal of York headed a quartet of double-figure scorers with 15 points and provided seven rebounds, four assists and four steals to help Division III USM, coached by Karl Henriksson, knock off its Division I counterpart from Orono.
The Black Bears committed 23 turnovers, which helped negate their 41 percent shooting and a 54-39 rebounding advantage. Five players had three turnovers for UMaine, which also converted only 20 of 33 foul shots (61 percent).
The Huskies, on the other hand, turned the ball over only 12 times and shot 36 percent from the floor.
Jacob Littlefield of Mechanic Falls finished with 12 points and six rebounds for USM, while Sean Caddigan of Bethel and Alex Fraser of Portland netted 11 points each.
Buxton’s Cole Libby chipped in with four points, nine rebounds, six assists and a steal for USM .
Till Gloger, a 6-foot-8 junior forward, was a force for the Black Bears with game highs of 23 points (on 10-for-16 shooting) and 19 rebounds. He also came up with four steals.
Shaun Lawton provided 16 points, six rebounds and three assists, while Kevin Little added 13 points and three assists.
UMaine led 48-43 with 14:51 to play, before USM manufactured a 13-2 run to take the lead for good.
Aaron Toman of Gardiner provided a spark for the Huskies, nailing a jumper and a 3-pointer to make it 48-48. Lawton countered with a basket for the Bears, but Fraser made a 3-pointer, Jalen Lincoln of Nobleboro scored off a Toman steal and Fraser stuck another 3 to put the hosts in front 56-50.
Gloger scored from underneath for UMaine, but Fraser stepped up again to make a layup and a 3-pointer as USM extended its lead to 61-52 with 7:39 remaining.
The Bears trailed by as many as 10 points before making a final charge with a 7-0 spurt that included four points from Gloger. A hoop by Lawton made it 68-65, but Littlefield’s jumper helped restore a five-point edge and UMaine could not overcome the Huskies in the late going.
UMaine returns to action Thursday night with an exhibition game against Husson University of Bangor at the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor.