ORONO, Maine — Saturday night’s men’s basketball game between the University of Maine and Brown University was a homecoming of sorts for Brown sophomore center Rafael Maia, who spent a year developing his skills at Pittsfield’s Maine Central Institute.
And the Brazilian played a huge role in ruining Maine’s home opener as he scored a game-high 21 points, grabbed eight rebounds and made three steals to lead Brown to a 70-68 triumph at Alfond Arena.
Junior guard Sean McGonagill contributed 16 points, five rebounds, five assists and three steals for Brown (2-1) and senior guard Matt Sullivan finished with 12 points. Junior forward Tucker Halpern had eight points.
Maine (0-3) was led by sophomore guard Justin Edwards’ 16 points, six rebounds and five assists; freshman forward Till Gloger’s 10 points; senior forward-center Mike Allison’s nine points, seven rebounds and three blocked shots and junior forward Alasdair Fraser’s eight points, 10 rebounds, five assists and three blocked shots.
Maine also received eight points and five assists from sophomore guard Xavier Pollard and eight points and five rebounds from junior forward Jon Mesghna.
“It was really good to be back here,” said the 6-foot-9 Maia, who had to sit out last season at Brown due to an academic technicality. “I loved the time I spent here. It was a great time in my life. One of my teachers from MCI came to see me tonight. That was really nice.”
“I had a good game. But it was a team effort. I was able to get the ball because everyone was boxing out. Our coach [Mike Martin] tells us to always fight for the ball. I thought we did a great job. Everyone should be happy with this win,” added Maia.
Brown never let Maine get a foothold in the game.
Maine’s largest lead was two points as Brown always had an answer for a Maine run.
The Black Bears did rally to tie it on several occasions with the last one occurring with 5:07 left when Gloger hit a short jumper to make it 61-61.
But Brown took the lead for good when 2011-12 second team All-Ivy League selection McGonagill fed Maia for a baseline layup with 3:24 remaining.
Allison hit a free throw and McGonagill answered with a free throw with 2:14 remaining.
After Maine’s Mesghna missed a 3-pointer, Maia extended the lead to 66-62 with 1:31 left by grabbing his own rebound and putting it home.
Edwards fed Allison for a layup with 32 seconds left, but Sullivan restored the four-point lead with a pair of free throws 10 seconds later.
Edwards passed to Allison underneath for another basket with 15 seconds left and McGonagill sank a free throw one second later.
Edwards and Alasdair Fraser missed shots but Fraser forced in his own rebound to make it 69-68 with 4.9 seconds left.
Sullivan hit one of two free throws with 4.4 seconds remaining, but Pollard’s off-balance jumper fell short at the buzzer.
“Maine is a well-coached team with some pretty talented players. Any time you can win on the road and execute down the stretch, which we did for the most part, you’ve got to be happy with it,” said Brown coach Martin, who praised Maia and McGonagill for their performances.
“The big reason we were able to stem the tide a little bit when Maine made their runs was because of those two guys,” said Martin. “The most important ingredient in college basketball is good guard play and someone you can throw the ball inside to and, obviously, they’re a good inside-outside combination.”
Allison said the Black Bears couldn’t get a foothold because they weren’t able to get stops during their runs.
“We lost focus of that. We were too offense-oriented,” said Allison.
“We needed to keep our composure on defense,” said Edwards. “We got a little bit too excited and we gambled a little too much. We needed to get on the ground and get those loose balls.”
Brown built a 38-31 halftime lead thanks to a 15-6 run to close out the half.
It represented the biggest lead of the game.
Sullivan had five points in the run and Joe Sharkey and McGonagill hit 3-pointers in the last 58 seconds.
But Allison’s six points fueled an 11-4 run to open the second half and draw the Black Bears level.
“It was a real hard-fought game. I have a lot of respect for Brown. You’ve always got to cover all five guys all the time,” said Maine coach Ted Woodward. “We had a lot of different contributions in the game. We shot the ball well. It just came down to a couple extra loose balls, a couple extra offensive rebounds, a couple misplays by us here or there, either missed layups at the basket or missed free throws. It was one of those games that the extra possession or two was going to be critical during the course of it.”