Point guard K.J. Maura followed two go-ahead free throws with a key 3-pointer as the University of Maryland Baltimore County fought off the University of Maine 72-67 in an America East men’s basketball game at the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor on Wednesday night.
UMBC improved its record to 11-7 overall, 2-1 in America East.
UMaine fell to 4-14 overall, 1-2 in conference play and will return to action at home Saturday at the University of Albany. Game time is noon.
UMaine, which trailed by seven at halftime and by 11 early in the second half, built a four-point lead later in the period only to have Maura make two free throws with 2:18 to go to give UMBC a 63-61 lead with 2:18 left.
Maura then stole the ball on UMaine’s next possession and buried a 3-pointer to give the Retrievers a five-point cushion with 1:40 to go.
UMaine’s Andrew Fleming scored twice around two free throws by UMBC’s Jarius Lyles to leave the Black Bears within 68-65 with nine seconds left, and UMaine got no closer.
Lyles led five UMBC scorers in double figures with 16 points while Joe Sherburne added 15.
Aaron Calixte scored a game-high 24 points for UMaine while Fleming finished with 14 points and Isaiah White had eight points and seven rebounds.
Lyles and Jourdan Grant each scored seven points as part of a balanced attack that enabled UMBC to build a 33-26 halftime lead.
The Retrievers led by as many as nine before UMaine rallied behind Calixte and White to draw as close as five points late in the period.
UMaine stayed within striking distance at halftime despite shooting just 33 percent (10 of 30) from the field and 25 percent (1 of 4) from the free-throw line and committing 12 turnovers.
The Black Bears were largely successful defending against UMBC’s stable of long-range shooters during the first half, limiting the Retrievers to 2-of-14 shooting (14.3 percent) from beyond the 3-point arc.
Lyles and Joe Sherburne each hit a 3-pointer for UMBC to open the second half as the Retrievers extended their lead back to as much as 11 points.
But UMaine countered with 10 unanswered points to pull within 41-40 four minutes into the second half, then took its first lead at 45-44 when Calixte — a 91 percent free-throw shooter this season entering the game — hit three from the line with 13:57 left in the second half.
The Black Bears built their lead to 51-47 — marking a 20-6 UMaine run — on two Dennis Ashley free throws with 12:32 to go.
UMaine built its advantage to as much as 55-49 on a Calixte layup with 9:03 left, but UMBC then went on a 12-2 run to regain the lead at 61-57.
Fleming answered for UMaine with two free throws, the Calixte connected on a runner to tie the game at 61-61 with 2:33 left.
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