WEST HARTFORD, Conn. — Sophomore forward Mark Nwakamma had a game-high 23 points, eight assists and seven rebounds and sophomore guard Yolonzo Moore II sank four important free throws down the stretch as Hartford held off the University of Maine 68-61 in an America East men’s basketball game Wednesday afternoon.
Hartford is now 10-6 overall, 3-0 in America East, while Maine fell to 7-9 and 2-1 and had its four-game winning streak snapped.
Moore finished with 16 points, five assists, four rebounds and three steals and Evan Cooper contributed 13 points and three steals. Wes Cole had eight points for the winners, who won just nine games last season.
Justin Edwards and Jon Mesghna each scored 17 points to lead the Black Bears. Edwards also had seven assists, four rebounds and two steals, and Mesghna grabbed six rebounds.
Alasdair Fraser had 16 points and seven rebounds, and Mike Allison collared a game-high 10 rebounds to go with six points for Maine.
Hartford shot 52.2 percent from the floor (24-for-46) and an impressive 47.6 from beyond the 3-point arc (10-for-21), while Maine shot 38.3 percent (18-for-47) and 35.7 percent (5-for-14), respectively.
Hartford was 10-for-16 from the free throw line compared to Maine’s 20-for-29 and Maine outrebounded the Hawks 35-29. Maine had one more turnover, 14-13.
Hartford used a 13-6 spurt to close out the first half to take a 34-27 lead into the intermission, and the Hawks led the rest of the way, although Maine did cut the lead to one in the second half.
Nwakamma figured in all 13 points at the end of the half with four points and three assists.
He fed Moore for a 3-pointer to make it 24-21 and, after Maine’s Mesghna hit a free throw, Nwakamma converted a layup. Mesghna sank another free throw to make it 26-23, but Nwakamma expanded the lead with another layup.
Two Edwards free throws sliced the lead to 28-25, but Nwakamma passed to Moore for a 3-pointer and, after two Fraser foul shots, Nwakamma fed Cole for a 3-pointer to close out the half.
The Black Bears scored the first five points of the second half on layups by Mike Allison and Fraser and Xavier Pollard’s free throw and, moments later, Edwards jammed home a Fraser miss to reduce the lead to 37-36.
But Hartford scored the next five points.
The Bears stayed within striking distance and two Edwards free throws with 3:21 left cut the lead to 57-55.
The Hawks turned the ball over, but Edwards missed a 3-pointer and Nwakamma grabbed the rebound.
Nwakamma eventually fed Cooper for a layup and Cooper then intercepted a Fraser pass.
Moore was fouled and sank two free throws with 1:39 left to make it 61-55.
Moore stole an Edwards pass and was fouled and made two more free throws to make it 63-55 with 1:19 left.
An Edwards layup and a Pollard jumper cut the lead to 63-59 with 53 seconds left, but that was as close as Maine could get.
“It seemed like we were playing catch-up the whole game,” said Maine coach Ted Woodward. “Hartford made more plays down the stretch than we did.”
“We just couldn’t make a push,” he added.
Woodward also said Hartford was able to “slow us down” and the Bears weren’t able to slow Hartford down when they needed to.
Nwakamma proved to be a handful for the Black Bears, said Woodward.
“He’s a very difficult coverage. He can shoot, he can drive the lane and he can post up,” said Woodward.