NEWARK, N.J. – The Black Bears were led by their junior leadership as both Zarko Valjarevic and Xavier Pollard recorded 19 and 18 points, respectively, but Maine men's basketball dropped to 1-6 on the year with a 81-72 loss at NJIT on Wednesday night. NJIT improved to 5-4 overall as they sweep the season series between the two teams, going 2-0 in the home-and-home.
Maine was at one point down by 20 points, midway through the second half but battled back, going on a 28-13 run, to cut the deficit to five points with just over a minute remaining, but that's as close as the squad got.
Pollard sparked the team in his return to the starting lineup as he recorded the Black Bear's first double-double of the year, scoring 18 points and pulling down 11 boards.
Meanwhile Valjarevic flourished from beyond the arc, shooting 50 percent (5-of-10) to aid his 19 point performance.
NJIT got huge efforts from Terrence Smith and Damon Lynn in the vicotry. Smith led the team with 22 points while Lynn wasn't too far behind, recording 19 of his own.
The Highlanders opened the game on a 9-4 run with Tim Coleman and Terrence Smith leading the charge as NJIT forced an early timeout by Maine.
Maine struggled shooting basketball early on as it shot 33 percent through the first six minutes.
A Pollard jumper with a little over 14 minutes left in the half broke a three-minute scoreless streak for the Black Bears as they pulled to within five, 11-6.
Coming out of the under 12 minute media timeout NJIT's Smith and Lynn recorded back-to-back layups pushing their lead to 19-10 and forcing another Maine timeout.
With the game at 19-8 the Black Bears went on an 11-3 run to pull back into the contest. Akanda-Coronel energized the team with dunk and Valjarevic finished the run off with his first trey of the game to make it 21-19, Highlanders.
Following the Black Bear outburst the Highlanders retook control of the game and ended the half on a 16-9 run heading to halftime up 37-28.
Akanda-Coronel and Valjarevic paced the Black Bears through the first frame as both ended the half with eight points each.
Meanwhile, Terrence Smith, who recorded 14 first-half points, tormented the Black Bears.
Maine continued its strong assist aptitude recording eight helpers on 11 baskets through the first half.
The Black Bear's first half shooting troubles continued in the second as they went 0-for-3 through the first three minutes of the frame while NJIT opened up on 7-0 run forcing an early Black Bear timeout.
With the score 44-28 the Highlanders continued to keep the Black Bears at arms length, edging the Black Bears on a 14-12 run through the midway point of the second half with the score 58-41.
The Black Bears didn't quit as Micovic made his presence felt, using his 6-9 frame to challenge a 3-point attempt, corral the ensuing rebound, allowing a Valjarevic 3-point bucket as Maine trailed 61-49 with just under eight minutes remaining.
Maine went on a 10-6 run sparked by two Valjarevic 3-pointers as Maine made a late run at the lead but Willis Windfield trey put answered the Black Bear run.
The Black Bears continued to pursue and continued on their 28-13 run to close it to within five points, 75-69 but NJIT didn't allow the squad to get any closer as Maine fell 81-72.
The Black Bears finished the game shooting 36 percent and allowed NJIT to hit on 47 percent from the field, meanwhile the Highlanders got the best of the glass taking down 46 rebounds to Maine's 32.
The Black Bears will now head to Hartford, Conn., as the squad takes on UConn on Friday night at the XL Center at 7 p.m. That game will be shown on ESPN3. Check back to GoBlackBears.com for game coverage.