The University of Maine men’s basketball team roared to a hot start Saturday afternoon against Dartmouth only to see the Big Green take control later in the first half.
But the final 20 minutes belonged to Wes Myers.
The junior transfer scored 27 of his game-high 31 points in the second half, including the game-winning layup with 47 seconds remaining as the Black Bears eked out a 73-68 win at Hanover, New Hampshire.
Coach Bob Walsh’s club (4-6) earned its second straight win while Dartmouth fell to 0-8.
UMaine denied first-year Big Green head coach Dave McLaughlin, a Colby College graduate, his first victory.
After Brendan Berry hit two free throws to give Dartmouth a 68-67 lead with 57 seconds remaining, Myers exploded to the basket on UMaine’s next possession and his layup gave the Black Bears the lead for good.
Cameron Smith missed a 3-point attempt on Dartmouth’s next possession, and Myers converted two free throws after being fouled with 23 seconds to play.
Smith missed two layups on the Big Green’s subsequent trip, and Austin Howard hit the second of his two foul shots with 9.4 left to put the game on ice.
UMaine’s 3-point shooting (8-for-25 for the game) was a key factor in allowing the Black Bears to claw back into the game. Howard and Myers combined to go 7-for-10 from deep.
Howard (23 points) ignited an early Black Bears’ run, scoring all 10 of their points in the first four minutes as UMaine raced out to a 10-2 lead.
Two of Howard’s shots came from 3-point range.
The Big Green responded with a surge of their own, with Guilien Smith’s layup near the midway point of the first half pulling Dartmouth back within a basket.
Just over a minute later, Will Emery officially wiped out UMaine’s lead with a short jumper in the lane.
Dartmouth would not trail the remainder of the opening half, as the Big Green embarked on a 23-6 run after the Black Bears got off to their hot start.
Evan Boudreaux was the main catalyst for the Big Green, scoring 11 of his points over the first 20 minutes.
The Big Green led by as many as 12 in the opening half, but the Bears were able to claw back and make it a five-point game (36-31) at the break.
Dartmouth increased its lead to eight early in the second half, but Myers started to catch fire for UMaine and gave the Black Bears some momentum.
He sparked an 11-0 run that allowed UMaine to tie the score at 52, scoring nine of those points, and fed Howard for a game-tying jumper.
Freshman Andrew Fleming of South Paris gave UMaine its first lead of the second half with a thunderous two-handed slam, but Miles Wright’s 3-pointer put Dartmouth back on top 56-54.
The teams battled back and forth over the next several minutes, and a 3-pointer by Howard pulled the Bears even at 65 with just over three minutes to play.
Neither team led by more than one after that until the Bears put the game away at the foul line.
Boudreaux finished with 19 points, Guilien Smith 12 and Wright 10 for Dartmouth.
UMaine only turned the ball over 10 times.