CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. – The Maine men's basketball team tallied its first win in over a month on Sunday night as the team was sparked by Dimitry Akanda-Coronel and the return of junior forward Kilian Cato as the Black Bears upset Middle Tennessee State, 89-85 in overtime, at the Dr. Pepper Classic. The win is teams first since Nov. 10 against Fisher and is the squad's first defeat of a division I team in 2013-14. The victory improves Maine's record to 2-9 while the Blue Raiders drop to 8-5.
After returning to the lineup following academic ineligibility in the first semester of the season, Cato made his presence felt in the waning moments of the second half, as he slammed down a dunk with 1:29 remaining in regulation time, knotting the score at 74-74.
The Black Bears then scored 15 points in the overtime period with a signature Zarko Valjarevic trey highlighting the effort, as the team held the Blue Raiders to 11 points in the final 5:00 minutes to outlast Middle Tennessee for the victory.
Akanda-Coronel had an explosive game recording 27 points, his second highest total of the season and two-points shy of his all-time high, set against NJIT on Nov. 19. The sophomore shot 10-of-22 from the field and 5-of-8 from beyond the arc as well as bringing down eight boards.
Valjarevic broke the 20-point plateau as well, shooting 4-of-6 from three-point land to tally 20 points. Cato and Shaun Lawton were the two others to record double-digit points, as they both scored 12 apiece.
The Blue Raiders were sparked by Neiko Hunter and Jaqawn Raymond who scored 20 points and 18 points, respectively, while Shawn Jones tallied a double-double scoring 16 points and recording 12 rebounds in the losing effort.
Middle Tennessee State opened the game with an early 6-3 run that was quickly thwarted by a Valjarevic trey to tie the game up 6-6 early in the half.
A pair of free throws by Hunter opened a four point lead for the Blue Raiders with 11:26 remaining in the half but Maine fought back as Troy Reid-Knight laid in a bucket along with a trey to give Maine the lead 18-16, less than two minutes later.
The two teams continued to battle as the Blue Raiders began to pull away as the team headed into the half going on an 18-13 run to take a 34-31 lead into the break.
Middle Tennessee struggled shooting through the first frame hitting on only 34.5 percent from the field (12-of-35) while Maine didn't fare much better hitting on 35.5 percent (11-of-31).
Maine took its advantage from beyond the arc however as the Black Bears were 5-of-7 from 3-point land with Akanda-Coronel accounting for three of those treys. The Blue Raiders failed to convert a long-distance bucket going 0-for-10.
In the second frame Maine opened up with a bang as Valjarevic hit a 3-pointer on the opening possession to tie things up at 34-34.
Ethan Mackey followed up a Jones missed jumper with a bucket of his own to give Maine its first lead of the second half, 36-34.
The Black Bears didn't trail again until the 4:01 mark when Reggie Upshaw laid in a bucket to make it 73-72.
Jones hit a free throw later on in the half to make it 74-72 but Cato's timely dunk sent the game into overtime.
Coronel stayed hot into the overtime frame converting on a three-point play, hitting a layup and draining the ensuing free throw to make it 77-74.
Jones drained a pair of free throws of his own with less than four minutes remaining in overtime to bring the score to within one for the Blue Raiders, 77-76.
Lawton and Hammonds traded buckets on the next two possessions but Cato was the difference-maker again as he hit a jump shot to make it 81-78 with 2:53 remaining.
Cato followed that up by forcing a Middle Tennessee foul and draining the pair of free throws to make it 83-78.
The Blue Raiders didn't quit however as a pair of Tweety Knight layups brought the game within one point of the lead.
Valjarevic nailed a trey coming out of a Maine timeout with :31 seconds remaining that all but sealed the deal for the Black Bears as they took the lead 86-82 and went on to a 89-85 victory.
The Black Bears were once again accurate shooting the basketball hitting 48.5 percent from the field (32-of-66) while Middle Tennessee managed to make 42.7 percent from the field (32-of-75).
The game was won from 3-point land however as Maine shot an eye-popping 63.6 percent from beyond the arc while Middle Tennessee shot just 20 percent from long-range (5-of-25).
Maine's rebounding woes continued however as the Black Bears were handled on the glass as the team was outrebounded 52-35.
Maine now advances to the championship round of the Dr. Pepper Classic and will play either Chattanooga or Grand Canyon University at 7 p.m., tomorrow afternoon. Check back to Goblackbears.com for updates on tomorrow's opponent.