Senior Night didn’t go exactly as planned for the Maine Black Bears as they lost a close game to the Hartford Hawks 82-74 on Wednesday night. After failing to complete the season sweep on Hartford, Maine plunges to an 8-20 overall record on the season to go with a 4-11 America East record and also see their current losing streak grow to seven. Hartford’s victory knotted up the season series with the Black Bears and improves their record to 9-21 overall and 4-11 in America East action.
In the beginning of the game it seemed as if it was going to be Maine’s night, outplaying the Hawks throughout the entire first half and taking a 41-34 lead into the halftime break. The Black Bears shot 14-for-35 (40 percent) from the field collectively opposed to the Hawks 12-for-33 (36 percent), while also outrebounding them 25-20 on the glass.
Unfortunately the second half was a completely different story. Though the Black Bears improved their shooting in the second half, they were unable to stop the Hawks in any fashion on the defensive end, surrendering 48 second-half points. Hartford shot 13-of-26 (50 percent) from the field and connected on 6-of-13 (46 percent) from beyond the arc. Maine shot 11-of-25 (44 percent) and 2-of-5 (40 percent) from downtown respectively, but it was not nearly enough to match the offensive firepower of the Hawks. Hartford’s aggression in getting to the basket also helped key them to victory, shooting 18 second-half foul shots and converting on 16 of them. The Black Bears were just 9-of-14 (64 percent) at the free-throw line. Hartford’s dominate 48-33 second half propelled them to their comeback victory over Maine.
Following the tight loss to Hartford, Head Coach Bob Walsh was hard on himself, blaming himself for the team’s loss.
“I’m really disappointed in myself and I don’t really have a lot of answers. We should be better than we are. I have to do a better job of connecting with this team and getting this team to come out and perform/play well for a full 40-minute game. We have the right guys in the locker room, yet we haven’t been able to perform at the level we need for 40 minutes. I’m disgusted in myself,” Walsh said following the defeat.
First-year forward Issac Vann led the way for the Black Bears with 23 points, eight rebounds and three assists. Vann was dialing in from all over the floor, shooting 7-for-14 from the field, connecting on 3-of-6 from three-point land and 6-for-7 at the charity stripe. Fourth-year forward Shaun Lawton was extremely effective in his last home game as a Black Bear, converting on 4-of-6 of his attempts from the field for 13 points to go with five rebounds and two assists. First-year forward Devine Eke pushed chaos coming off the bench, scoring eight points and grabbing a game-high 11 rebounds.
For the Hawks, redshirt third-year guard Pancake Thomas led the way with scoring, netting 23 points, meeting his 500-point milestone. Other notable scorers were redshirt third-year guard Jalen Ross netting 14 points and first-year forward George Blagojevic with 10 points.
“Our intensity on the defensive side wasn’t there in the second half. First half it was there, we played defense the way we are capable of. The second half, as soon as we came out of the locker room our intensity wasn’t where it needed to be and that’s when they jumped on us and things started going downhill,” Lawton said after his final game.
Maine looks to end their regular season on a good note and head into the postseason with some confidence when they travel to Binghamton on Saturday, Feb. 27 for a 2 p.m. tipoff against the Bearcats for their regular season finale.
Black Bears fall to Binghamton in season finale
The University of Maine men’s basketball team lost their regular season finale at Binghamton 76-68 on Saturday afternoon. This loss concludes Maine’s regular season record at 8-21 and 4-12 in America East play.
Vann could not be stopped for the Black Bears on Saturday afternoon, pouring in a game-high 26 points to go with eight rebounds and four assists. Second-year guard Aaron Calixte also played well, contributing 14 points and three assists.
For Binghamton it was second-year forward Willie Rodriguez who led them to victory scoring 24 and grabbing a game-high nine rebounds. Second-year forward Bobby Ahearn came off the bench and netted 10 points and five rebounds in just 17 minutes of action.
The first half was made up of long runs by both teams. Binghamton opened up the game strong with a 13-5 run throughout the first seven minutes of the contest. Back-to-back jump shots by Lawton and Calixte, topped off by a deep three-pointer from Vann propelled a 7-2 Black Bears run, cutting the lead down to just three with 9:00 remaining in the first half. Maine and Binghamton were then trading baskets at an even rate throughout the remainder of the first half until Binghamton put together a last minute 5-0 run that sent them into the break up by five-points at 34-29.
The second half started off closely contested, as Maine was able to manage the Binghamton lead early and keep it within six through the first five minutes of the second half. Binghamton then went on 7-0 run to stretch their advantage to 13 with 13:00 to play in the second half. Lawton hit a key jumper to stop the bleeding of that run, but then Binghamton sparked an 11-2 run putting them up by 19 with 8:53 remaining and ultimately out of reach for a Black Bears comeback chance.
Maine did all they could trailing by so many points with just under nine minutes to play, showing no signs of quitting. The Black Bears put on a 15-7 run of their own, shrinking the lead back to single-digits at 69-60. That was as close as Maine would get and it was a case of too little, too late for the Black Bears as Binghamton hit a few free throws down the stretch putting the game away.
Maine was 26-for-56 (40 percent) from the field and 5-for-18 (28 percent) from three-point territory. Binghamton shot more accurately from all over the floor, 31-for-66 (47 percent) from the field and 6-for-15 (40 percent) from downtown. Binghamton also was tough on the defensive end, forcing seven steals and four rejections. Maine was only able to force a season-low two steals and two blocks. It was dead even on the glass with both teams, grabbing 40 rebounds a piece.
With the regular season in the books, Maine will begin their postseason action when they travel to Vermont to take on the Catamounts on Wednesday, March 2 for a 7 p.m. tipoff.