Junior guard Sergio El Darwich continued his hot play of late and the University of Maine men’s basketball team built a second-half lead of as many as 16 points on Saturday before holding on to edge the University at Albany 66-62 in an America East matchup at the SEFCU Arena in Albany, N.Y.
The win was the first in conference play this season and just the second against an NCAA Division I opponent for 3-15 UMaine (1-2 America East).
The victory ended a six-game losing streak overall and a 19-game run of road futility for the program since a 76-73 victory at Binghamton on Jan. 6, 2018.
It also ended a nine-game losing streak in America East play since an 81-79 overtime victory over Binghamton last Feb. 3 at the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor.
UAlbany fell to 5-12 overall, 0-2 in the conference.
El Darwich, a junior guard from Dekwenah, Lebanon, via Lee Academy, South Dakota State and Western Texas College, matched his UMaine career high with 26 points.
He shot 9 of 13 from the field overall, including 5 of 6 from beyond the 3-point arc, and also grabbed eight rebounds in 32 minutes.
El Darwich scored 10 points during the first half as UMaine built a 38-28 advantage, then had 16 of UMaine’s 28 points in the second half. That included a layup that gave the Black Bears their largest lead of the afternoon (47-31) with 15:37 remaining.
UMaine had to survive a late UAlbany rally, as the Black Bears did not make a field goal after El Darwich connected on a 3-pointer to give the Black Bears a 61-48 cushion with 4:04 remaining.
UAlbany outscored UMaine 14-5 the rest of the way and hit its last five field-goal attempts to cut into the Black Bear lead in the final minutes.
El Darwich made 6 of his 8 shots after intermission — including 3 of 4 on 3-pointers — en route to matching the 26 points he scored during a double-overtime loss to Central Connecticut State on Dec. 22.
El Darwich now has scored in double figures in each of his last six games, averaging 17.5 points during that span to lift his season scoring average to 11.4 points per contest.
Junior forward Andrew Fleming added 12 points, six rebounds and a game-high seven assists for UMaine while junior guard Isaiah White scored 13 points with four blocked shots and three steals and sophomore forward Vilgot Larsson had 11 points with three 3-pointers.
UMaine also had one of its most efficient shooting efforts of the season, converting on 22 of 51 (43.1 percent) shots overall, including 12 of 28 (42.9 percent) from beyond the 3-point arc.
The Black Bears also made 10 of 13 (76.9 percent) free throws compared to just 11 of 20 (55 percent) for UAlbany.
Ahmad Clark paced the Great Danes with 22 points while Cameron Healy scored 15.
UMaine returns to action at 7 p.m. Wednesday at home against Hartford.