BANGOR, Maine — The University of Maine men’s basketball team has taken some pride in its ability to continue battling after intermission — the Black Bears now have outscored their last six opponents during the second half.
It’s the the first half that’s the problem..
The University of Albany overwhelmed UMaine over the first 20 minutes of their America East clash Saturday afternoon, outscoring the Black Bears 48-10 en route to an 84-66 victory at the Cross Insurance Center,
Senior guard Joe Cremo scored 19 of his game-high 22 points before the break for the Great Danes, now 14-5 overall and 2-2 in conference play.
Albany also generated more blocked shots (six) during the opening half than Maine’s offense made field goals (four).
“I can’t explain it,” said Maihe coach Bob Walsh, whose team fell to 4-15 overall, 1-3 in conference with another huge challenge at reigning America East champion Vermont on Monday. “If I could explain it I think we’d be able to figure it out. We couldn’t guard them and we couldn’t put the ball in the hoop to save our lives. We’ve got to find a way to dig ourselves out of it when things aren’t going our way.”
Albany, which made the 7½-hour bus trip from New York’s capital city on Friday ahead of the noontime start, couldn’t have looked fresher as the game began.
The Great Danes scored 17 unanswered points to build a 24-3 lead, then closed out the half with an 18-3 blitz as Travis Charles added 12 points and frontcourt mate Greg Stire contributed six points and seven boards before the break.
Maine finally reached double digits on Andrew Fleming’s free throw with 39.7 seconds left in the half.
“There was great enthusiasm and great energy on both ends, especially defensively,” said Cremo. “The last couple of days of practice we’ve been trying to be more vocal, and in the first half I don’t know if there was a possession that went by when you didn’t hear five guys on the floor talking to each other.”
Maine shot just 4-for-30 (13.3) percent from the field in the opening half and was 1-for-10 on 3-point tries.
“We knew Maine had been playing well,” said Albany coach Will Brown, citing the Black Bears’ victory over Binghamton and narrow losses to Stony Brook and Maryland Baltimore County in its first three conference outings. “Our goal was to make things difficult for [reigning AE co-player of the week Aaron] Calixte, which I thought we did, and on offense, we wanted to get a piece of the paint every possession.”
Calixte, a redshirt junior guard, led the Black Bears with 16 points but managed just four in the first half on 2-of-7 shooting. Danny Evans added 14 points for UMaine while Fleming finished with 12 points and five rebounds as the Black Bears outscored Albany 56-36 after intermission.
“In the first half Albany’s really good, they’re making it hard on us, we’re struggling to score, we’re struggling to get stops and we’ve got to be tough enough to fight our way through it,” said Walsh. “In the second half when the score is lopsided, that pressure isn’t there any more and you’re a little freer, a little looser out there.
“Trust me, if I was doing something magical at halftime, I’d be doing it before the game.”