February 22, 2020
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Hartford uses second-half spurt to top UMaine men’s basketball team

Elaine Thompson | AP
Elaine Thompson | AP
Sergio El Darwich of the University of Maine (with ball), pictured during a Nov. 19 game against Washington, returned from injury to score 15 points in the Black Bears' 55-49 loss to Hartford on Saturday.

Freshman guard Maurice Flowers scored 10 consecutive points during a decisive 14-2 second-half run on Saturday afternoon that led Hartford to a 55-49 America East men’s basketball victory over the cold-shooting University of Maine Black Bears in front of 1,049 at the Memorial Gym in Orono.

Flowers finished with 15 points as Hartford improved to 13-10 overall and 6-2 in America East. He also had three rebounds.

UMaine fell to 6-16, 2-6.

The 14-2 run gave Hartford a 47-35 lead as the Black Bears went 1-for-9 from the floor including eight consecutive misses. UMaine went 4:25 without a point as Hartford closed the run with 10 straight points.

After UMaine had used an 11-2 spurt to tie the game at 33-33, Flowers converted a pair of layups to give the Hawks a lead they would never relinquish.

Vilgot Larsson drove the lane for a basket with 8:18 remaining to make it 37-35 but another Flowers layup and four free throws expanded the lead to 43-35 before Miroslav Stafl capped the rally with an in-close basket and two free throws.

“I was just trying to play my game and help the team win,” said the 6-foot-3 Flowers. “I just saw gaps and I attacked them.”

“He is one of the best freshmen in our league,” Hartford coach John Gallagher said. “His upside is unbelievable. We’re lucky to have him.”

UMaine coach Richard Barron said their dribble-drive defense left a lot to be desired during that sequence.

“We gave up six direct drives. We weren’t getting into gaps. We got flat-footed, we weren’t moving our feet,” Barron said. “We also gave up to many deep post-ups to Stafl.”

“We wanted to focus on keeping them to the outside but we didn’t do that,” said UMaine senior forward Andrew Fleming. “When they went on their runs, they got direct drives and either scored at the rim or got easy shots from the perimeter. We can’t let that happen.”

Barron said the bigger issue was his team’s shooting woes. The Black Bears shot 31 percent from the floor and 16.7 percent from the 3-point arc.

Hartford shot 35.1 percent and 15.8 percent, respectively.

“We did not shoot the ball well. We had looks but we couldn’t convert them,” Barron said. “We had too many empty possessions.”

Fleming was limited to six points on 3-for-11 shooting, 9.3 points below his average. He grabbed a game-high 13 rebounds with two steals, two assists and two blocked shots.

“We practice in The Pit all the time. We should have more confidence in ourselves,” Fleming said. I don’t know if it was their 1-3-1 zone or something we did to ourselves.”

“We saw a wrinkle they were doing [offensively] that we thought we could cover [with the 1-3-1],” said Gallagher, whose team played man-to-man defense in the first half.

Malik Ellison, son of former NBA player Pervis Ellison, posted 13 points, four rebounds and two steals and Stafl contributed 12 points and nine rebounds. Hunter Marks added seven points and eight rebounds and two steals for the Hawks.

Sergio El Darwich, who missed the previous two games with a fractured finger on his shooting hand, led UMaine with 15 points and six rebounds. Precious Okoh tallied eight points, Stephane Ingo netted seven to go with seven rebounds.

After a promising 10-3 start, the hosts went stone cold. UMaine scored just eight points over the final 15:51 of the half on a dreary 3-for-17 shooting performance.

The Hawks finished the first half on a 13-0 run to take a 25-18 lead into the intermission.

Stafl had a game-high eight points in the first half for Hartford with Flowers contributing five.

Ingo’s seven points and El Darwich’s six paced the Black Bears.

UMaine travels to Vermont for a 5 p.m. game on Wednesday.

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