BALTIMORE, Md. — Brian Neller connected on a long 3-pointer with 0.5 seconds left Saturday night, lifting the University of Maryland Baltimore County to a 68-67 America East men’s basketball victory over the University of Maine at the Retriever Activities Center.
It was the second time in the last five games the Black Bears had given up a game-winning 3-pointer in the closing seconds.
“The kid hit a 3, a tremendous shot,” said UMaine coach Ted Woodward. “He shot it deep, he shot it with a guy in his face and, unfortunately for us, it went in.”
The Retrievers (6-16, 4-5 AE) overcame a 14-point halftime deficit, scoring 42 points in the second half while shooting 57 percent (16-for-28) from the floor.
The Black Bears (8-14, 3-6 AE), who were without leading scorer Justin Edwards because of an ankle injury, lost despite shooting 48 percent from the field. They committed 16 turnovers, which led directly to 26 points by the Retrievers.
UMaine squandered its 14-point advantage, but rallied from behind late in the contest and appeared to be in good position when Zarko Valjarevic made a 3-pointer with six seconds remaining to give the Bears a two-point lead.
However, Neller’s heroics thwarted the bid.
“The bottom line is, we’re up two with seven seconds left to go and you want to do what you can do to finish it off,” Woodward said.
Chase Plummer was high man for UMBC with 17 points, along with seven rebounds, five assists and two steals. Joey Getz tossed in 16 points, Ryan Cook netted 14 with seven rebounds and Neller finished with 12 points.
Valjarevic went only 6-for-17 from long distance, but paced UMaine with 20 points. It was the Bears’ third straight loss and their sixth in the last seven contests.
Alasdair Fraser tallied 13 points and six rebounds, while Jon Mesghna and Xavier Pollard (6 rebounds, 7 assists) posted 11 and 10 points, respectively.
UMBC turned the tide with a 17-0 run in the second half.
UMaine led 54-44 after a Valjarevic 3-pointer with 11:34 to play, but Neller and Plummer canned 3-pointers 30 seconds apart to spark the Retrievers. Getz’s tip-in and two Cook free throws tied the game at 54-all with 7:38 left.
Getz followed with a steal and layup to give UMBC the lead, then Cook sank two foul shots and Aaron Morgan made a 3-pointer to give the Retrievers their largest lead at 61-54 with 5:10 remaining.
“We couldn’t get a couple stops in the second half when they made their spurt,” Woodward said.
“We had a couple sequences where we had a couple [turnovers] back to back,” he added. “They scored some points off our turnovers, which have been down lately.”
The Bears responded with a 10-4 burst down the stretch, one that was keyed by two Valjarevic 3-pointers. Two Pollard free throws then had UMaine within 65-64 with 48 seconds left, setting up the dramatic finish.
“I thought our guys did a great job in the last three minutes coming back and executing,” Woodward said. “We got a big stop with 45 seconds left in the game, came down, did a great job executing on offense to take the lead.”
The Bears put together a solid and balanced first half and took a 39-26 advantage into the locker room.
Mesghna hit two 3-pointers to lead UMaine with 11 points and Fraser posted nine points as the Bears shot 52 percent (14-for-27) from the floor.
Getz sparked the Retrievers with eight points, but the hosts shot only 31 percent (10-for-32). UMaine committed eight turnovers, but outrebounded UMBC 25-17 despite giving up seven offensive boards.
The Bears pulled in front with an early 10-2 scoring run.