Black Bears earn impressive win to close out season

The Maine Black Bears men’s basketball team traveled to New York on Saturday to take on the Binghamton Bearcats at 2 p.m. in the final game of the regular season. Maine played with just four players off the bench after a tough week that saw five players suspended due to an altercation in the locker room. Despite the controversy, the Black Bears overcame the adversity in a 72-71 victory. The victory is Maine’s first on the road in conference play this season.

The Black Bears came out of the gates strong, starting off the game on a 7-2 run while the Bearcats only managed to shoot 1-of-7 while Maine held an 11-6 lead heading into the first time out, with 16 minutes remaining in the half. First-year forward Andrew Fleming finished with 17 points and six assists leading the way for Maine in scoring who was without top scorer Wes Myers due to suspension.

The Bearcats would find their scoring touch going on a 14-2 run that saw them tie the game and eventually take the lead 22-19 on a deep three from second-year guard Joe Schurman, who finished the game with 14 points on 4-for-7 shooting from beyond the arc. Following the run, Maine Head Coach Bob Walsh would call a timeout and right out of the Maine timeout Binghamton extended the run to 16-2 before Maine would settle things down again. Third-year forward Austin Howard was a part of getting Maine back on track scoring 10 of his 14 points in the first half, making his money on mid-range jumpers. Both teams played tough defense and didn’t shoot the ball well from behind the arc. Maine finished at 25 percent and Binghamton finished at 20 percent in the first half, but the Black Bears were able to head into the half down just one point with the score 32-31.

The story in the second half was shooting the ball at a high percentage, which was sparked by second-year guard Dennis Ashley, who scored no points in three minutes of playing time in the first half but finished the second half with 17 minutes and 11 points on 4-of-5 shooting, 3-of-4 from three-point land.

Third-year forward Willie Rodriguez scored 18 points for the Bearcats in the second half after just eight in the first. Rodriguez continued to attack the paint, going at the big man Fleming and finishing an and-one play with just under 16 minutes to go in the game to put the Bearcats up 41-39. Maine’s second-year guard Ryan Bernstein, who had a great second half, would answer with a funky three that bounced off the back of the rim high and dropped through the bottom of the net.

Following Bernstein’s three, Binghamton would go on a 10-0 run and go up by nine points. Maine would claw back to get within two points, but Rodriguez would help the Bearcats battle back and gain a 10 point lead with 8:02 left in regulation. Thanks to some big threes from by Bernstein and Ashley, Maine was able to fight its way back into the game. They closed the gap thanks to a 9-0 run forcing a Bearcats timeout with 4:28 left and the score knotted up at 64 apiece. With a minute left and Maine down 67-66 it was Austin Howard who knocked down a tough midrange jumper to give Maine the 68-67 lead that they held onto through the final buzzer.

The Black Bears finish the regular season 7-24 overall and 3-13 in conference play, heading into the America East Playoffs that begin March 1. Maine will travel to the University of Vermont to take on the top-seeded Vermont Catamounts, who have yet to suffer a loss in conference play.

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