The University of New Hampshire shot 52 percent in the first half while the University of Maine struggled from the field as the Wildcats built an early lead on the way to a 57-51 America East men’s basketball victory at Lundholm Gymnasium in Durham, New Hampshire.
The Black Bears, who shot only 24 percent in the first 20 minutes, mounted a 15-4 second-half run to make a game of it, but fell short.
Josh Hopkins paced New Hamsphire (8-7 overall, 1-1 AE) with a game-high 16 points, including four 3-pointers, along with five rebounds. Chris Lester tallied 14 points and seven rebounds and Sean Sutherlin added nine points and nine rebounds.
UMaine (4-12, 0-2 AE) was led by senior Andrew Fleming, who posted 14 points and four rebounds. Sergio El Darwich contributed 11 points and three assists and Peter Stumer added seven points.
The hosts wound up shooting a healthy 46 percent (23-for-50) for the game and dominated the rebounding 45-29. UNH also overcame 20 turnovers that led to 24 points for the Black Bears.
UMaine wound up connecting on 16 of 56 shots (29 percent) and went 7-for-30 (23 percent) from the 3-point arc.
UNH took charge with a 14-5 surge in the first half. It included 3-pointers by Lester and Hopkins, along with two baskets by Sutherlin, including his jumper from the lane that gave the Wildcats a 30-20 advantage with 2:12 remaining in the period.
The Black Bears responded with an extended 15-4 scoring run midway through the second half that got them back into contention.
UNH led 43-29 with 11:58 to play, but UMaine rallied. El Darwich scored six points to help spearhead the rally, including a layup that cut the Wildcats’ lead to 45-42 at the 6:04 mark.
Hopkins hit a big 3-pointer to end UMaine’s surge, but Fleming answered with a 3 that again made it a three-point game. The Black Bears had three possessions to potentially tie the game or close the gap, but failed to do so.
However, UNH didn’t close it out until a Nick Guadarrama 3-pointer and Lester’s layup restored the lead to seven (55-48) with 1:36 left.
UMaine visits Albany for a 3 p.m. game on Saturday.