The return home Wednesday night for the University of Maine men’s basketball team after eight straight road games spanning five weeks certainly wasn’t what it had hoped for.
Dartmouth scored the game’s first 11 points and rolled to a 77-44 non-conference victory over the Black Bears at the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor.
The defeat was the most lopsided for UMaine since a 93-50 loss to the University of San Francisco on Nov. 10, 2018, at the end of a three-game, five-day West Coast road trip.
The loss dropped coach Richard Barron’s club to 3-7 this season with another non-league home game set for Sunday against Quinnipiac.
“It was a struggle on every level, our worst game of the year,” Barron said. “There may have been a worse game last year but I can’t think of it right now. This was not a game where there was any excuse for the performance that we gave and all of us, me included, have to take some accountability for that.
“It was a dispirited and discouraging effort.”
Dartmouth, playing its fourth straight road contest, improved to 6-4 as it ended a three-game losing streak.
“It’s good to get a game where it proves that what you’re working on pays off in the win column,” said senior guard James Foye, who led four Dartmouth double-figure scorers with a game-high 18 points.
Wes Slajchert scored 13 points, Chris Knight tallied 12 and Aaryn Rai added 10.
Dartmouth, picked to finish last in the eight-school Ivy League’s preseason poll, had made at least 10 3-pointers in four straight games before coming up short during its 63-44 loss at South Florida last Friday. It won the battle of distance shooting early against UMaine.
The Big Green made their first three shots from the arc over the game’s first 4 minutes to build the 11-0 lead while UMaine, shooting just 29 percent from 3-point land entering the contest, missed its first five long-range attempts and went scoreless until Vilgot Larsson (9 points, 5 rebounds) converted from the low post with 15:31 left in the first half.
UMaine was left to play catch-up the rest of the way, getting as close as 11-8 on a hustle play by Andrew Fleming (15 points, six rebounds, four assists) when he grabbed two offensive rebounds of his own misses and was fouled while making a third shot for a three-point play.
But Dartmouth answered with its own offensive patience and outscored the Black Bears 20-5. Two more 3-pointers by reserve Wes Slajchert helped to open the lane for the Big Green to attack the basket.
UMaine went nearly five minutes without scoring while Dartmouth scored nine unanswered points to build a 31-13 lead before Fleming buried a 3-pointer from beyond the key.
The Black Bears did get within 33-23 on a nice baseline move by Nedeljko Prijovic (9 rebounds), but Dartmouth’s seventh 3-pointer of the half by Foye with 1.7 seconds left gave the Big Green a 40-26 halftime advantage.
Dartmouth shot 50 percent from 3-point range and 57 percent (16 of 28) overall from the field during the first half compared to 31 percent (4 of 13) for UMaine from beyond the arc and 35 percent (10 of 29) from distance.
Foye had 14 points, including a 4-for-5 effort on 3-pointers, at intermission while Fleming paced UMaine with nine points and five rebounds.
“We talked a lot going into the game about wanting to play inside-out, whether that be through the post or through the drives, and the first couple of threes I hit came off drives,” said Foye, whose team outscored UMaine 37-18 after the break. “When you get a couple early that’s when you become a really tough offensive team.”
UMaine played its fourth straight game without senior guard Sergio El Darwich, who has been sidelined since suffering an ankle injury during UMaine’s 46-26 loss at Virginia on Nov. 27.
El Darwich did suit up for the game and went through pregame warmups but did not see any action.