The University of Maine Men’s basketball team held the Great Danes of The University of Albany to 35 percent shooting — 28 percent in the first half — and forced 18 turnovers en route to a 66-52 America East victory at a snowy Alfond arena on Saturday afternoon.
Albany, which falls to 18-8 overall and 7-5 in America East, is typically led by its two guards: senior Jacob Iati, who averages 12.4 points per game, and senior Mike Black, who averages 15 points per game. The Black Bears made it a point to stop the duo, holding Iati to five points on 2-13 shooting and four turnovers and Black to 16 points on 5-13 shooting with five turnovers. UMaine used bulletin board material the last time the two teams met, when Black scored a career-high 28 points.
“Last game, Black made a comment about he wished he could play Maine every day because he’d average 30 points,” said UMaine sophomore guard Xavier Pollard who drew the defensive assignment of Black for much of the contest. “So going into this game, me and coach discussed the game plan and my main focus was to shut him down today.”
It was a balanced effortfor the Black Bears as the team improves to 9-15 overall and 4-7 in America East play after snapping a four-game losing skid. Senior center Mike Allison filled up the stat sheet, finishing with nine points, 12 rebounds and four blocks. Sophomore guard Justin Edwards had a team-high 16 points and added four steals. Junior Alasdair Fraser added 11 points and five rebounds, sophomore guard Zarko Valijarevic added 13 points on four-of-seven shooting and senior forward Jon McAllian played a key role off the bench, adding 10 points in 18 minutes of play.
“I think the guards did a really good job on Iati and Black, locking them down, forcing them into help,” said Allison.
The Black Bears trailed 5-4 in the early going, but a 22-6 run — fueled by six points from McAllian and Pollard — put UMaine on top 26-11 with just under 7 minutes remaining in the first half. Valijarevic drained a 3 with 30 seconds left in the half, giving the Black Bears a 31-18 halftime lead. The Black Bears finished the game, shooting a scorching 41.5 percent and held Albany to 35.1. UMaine connected on seven of 19 3-point attempts, and Albany only made 4-14. The Great Danes outrebounded UMaine 42-33, but the biggest advantage was at the foul line, where the Black Bears shot converted 14-25 attempts while Albany shot 8-10 from the charity stripe.
“We didn’t really have any sloppy possessions,” said UMaine head coach Ted Woodward. “I thought we did a good job controlling the basketball, and some plays that went right down to the end of the shot clock. And we really executed well.”
UMaine extended its lead to 35-20 early in the second half, but the Great Danes cut it to 38-32 with just over 13 minutes to play. The lead hung at around 6 points until the Black Bears went on a 13-6 run with six points from Edwards including a monster two-handed slam to push the lead to 55-42 with 3 minutes and change remaining. Albany would never be closer than nine for the rest of the contest. Forward Sam Roley was the Great Danes best player on this day finishing with 19 points, 15 rebounds and five steals.
“We got off to a great start shooting the basketball, and we were able to keep the perimeter guys balanced throughout the course of the game,” Woodward said.
The Black Bears will resume play on Wednesday, Feb. 13, when they play host to the University of Hartford.