The University of Maine Black Bears (6-23, 3-11 America East) men’s basketball team traveled to the Tsongas Center in Lowell, Massachusetts to take on The University of Massachusetts-Lowell River Hawks (11-16, 5-9 AE) in America East Conference play. Maine fell short 88-76 in a competitive match up that saw 19 lead changes. The Black Bears’ struggles at the end of both halves was the story of their downfall, as UMass Lowell rattled off a 16-5 run that put the nail in the coffin.
The first half did not feature a lead more than six points for either team as both battled for control. Maine was lights out from deep in the half, shooting 6-11 from three, and was 50 percent from the field. Led by fourth-year guard Aaron Calixte’s team-high 11 point, three assist half and 3-of-5 shooting from behind the arc, Maine was able to keep within striking distance of the River Hawks. UMass Lowell would find a rhythm and make a 6-2 run in the final two minutes to give themselves a cushion of 47-43 entering the half.
The second half featured much of the same from the first. Maine wouldn’t give up, staying competitive with the River Hawks until they once again seemed to run out of steam. UMass Lowell would stage a 16-5 run that put Maine away for good.
Four Black Bears finished with double-digit scoring totals on Wednesday night. Calixte finished with a team-high 18 points, collecting six assists and ripping down five rebounds. Third-year guard Vernon Lowndes, Jr. gave the Black Bears a much needed spark from the bench on his way to 16 points on 7-of-12 shooting from the field. Lowndes, Jr. grabbed six rebounds and showed out on the defensive end with two blocks. Redshirt second-year Isaiah White scored 11 points, while second-year forward Andrew Fleming almost had a double-double when he put up 10 points and seven boards in the losing effort.
On paper Maine led the way in many categories, including bench points, where they outscored the River Hawks 29-4. On top of that, the Black Bears outrebounded the River Hawks 39-30. It’s not often you see a loss associated with numbers like that in the box score but UMass Lowell was a determined bunch. With the win they clinched their first ever America East Playoff Berth in front of 2,214 fans.
Maine gets back to the drawing board, looking to bounce back on the road against the University at Albany Great Danes, Saturday Feb. 24 at 7 p.m.