UMaine men’s basketball team squanders 24-point lead, holds on to beat UMBC

By Pete Warner, BDN Staff
Posted Feb. 01, 2014, at 4:52 p.m.

BANGOR, Maine — Sometimes, it pays to have a short memory.

Both the University of Maine and Maryland Baltimore County demonstrated that quality Saturday afternoon, but it was the Black Bears who had the final opportunity to prove it.

UMaine built a 24-point lead, then UMBC erased it, but the hosts recovered and made the plays down the stretch to eke out an 83-80 America East men’s basketball victory at the Cross Insurance Center.

“You’ve got to forget about what happened [losing the lead],” said UMaine junior Zarko Valjarevic, who made four 3-pointers on his way to 18 points.

“You can’t worry about things that happened before because you can’t control them,” he added.

Coach Ted Woodward’s Black Bears (5-16, 3-6 AE) maintained their composure and execution in the closing moments to get their second straight win.

UMaine was without sophomore Dimitry Akanda-Coronel, who has been suspended for three games for an undisclosed violation of university rules.

The Retrievers (7-15, 3-6 AE) missed two 3-pointers in the last six seconds.

“I’m pleased with the effort we put up in the second half,” said UMBC coach Aki Thomas. “We could easily just folded and allowed Maine to beat us on their home floor badly, but our guys fought.”

The contest was marred by 52 fouls, including 29 whistled against UMaine. UMBC did not take advantage as it went only 21-for-40 from the free-throw line.

The Bears made 20 of 30 foul shots.

UMaine manufactured a lead that reached 24 points late in the first half, which ended with the Bears leading 56-36. The hosts shot 56 percent (19-for-34) from the field, including 8-for-13 from the 3-point arc.

The Retrievers would not roll over.

Chase Plummer (23 points, 8 rebounds) got the comeback started six minutes into the second half with a conventional three-point play. He scored 10 points during what would be a 26-4 barrage covering 6 ½ minutes.

UMBC hit four 3-pointers amidst the flurry, which ended on Plummer’s 19-foot jumper that put the visitors on top 66-65 with 8:10 remaining.

“They cooled off long enough for us to get back into the game and we were able to get some stops, finally, and kind of stir them up with our pressure,” Thomas said.

UMaine settled down, but continued to struggle with poor shooting and turnovers. Valjarevic helped restore the offensive confidence with five points during a 7-2 run, including a 3-pointer that put the Bears on top 80-75 with 2:10 to play.

Trailing 81-80 with 24.6 seconds left, UMBC called timeout and tried a back-door lob from Rodney Elliott to Devarick Houston, but the pass was slightly off the mark and the shot missed.

“That’s a play that the guys like and it seemed like the situation called for it. I thought that we got a good look at it. It didn’t drop,” Thomas said.

Troy Reid-Knight was fouled and made both with 11 seconds left, but UMBC had a last gasp. Plummer’s long 3 missed, then another from the corner by Quentin Jones missed at the final horn.

“You just have to get over that hump,” said UMaine junior Xavier Pollard, who registered 18 points, 7 assists, 5 rebounds and 3 blocked shots. “We just try to keep our composure and stay poised and get through the game.”

Freshman Marko Pirovic just missed a double-double with 13 points and nine rebounds and Troy Reid-Knight contributed 10 points and six assists. Shaun Lawton added four assists and three steals.

Reid-Knight provided a poised court presence to help UMaine stay in sync during the last six minutes.

“Troy’s a big shot-maker, a big playmaker,” Woodward said. “I thought down the stretch he gave us a little bit of balance and kind of calmed us down.”

Rodney Elliott netted 21 points with seven rebounds, three assists and two steals for UMBC. Jones added 10 points and Aaron Morgan chipped in with nine points and four assists.

The Bears enjoyed their most productive offensive half of the season (against a Division I opponent) while building a 24-point bulge.

The Bears travel to Vermont on Tuesday night.

https://bangordailynews.com/2014/02/01/sports/umaine-mens-basketball-team-squanders-24-point-lead-hold-on-to-beat-umbc/ printed on February 28, 2015