CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. – The Maine men's basketball team maintained the lead for the entire first half but faltered in the second frame as the Chattanooga Mocs (7-8) won the Dr. Pepper Classic Championship, defeating the Black Bears, 86-80, Monday night. Dimitry Akanda-Coronel had another strong game for the Black Bears tallying 24 points but the loss gives Maine a 2-10 record to wrap up 2013.
Maine's offense was once again sparked by Akanda-Coronel who was named America East player of the week earlier in the day following a 27-point performance against Middle Tennessee State yesterday night. The Boston, Mass., native excelled from 3-point range hitting on 5-of-7 from beyond the arc and shooting 8-of-18 from the field. He also led the team in rebounding taking down six boards, total.
Kilian Cato had his second-consecutive strong outing for the Black Bears as he once again reached double-figures in points shooting 5-of-9 from the field for 12 points. Christian Ejiga, Troy Reid-Knight and Shaun Lawton all tallied 10.
Chattanooga was fueled by the efforts four players who all reached double-figures. Casey Jones and Ronrico White both tallied 20 points apiece while Gee McGhee also chipped in 17 points for the Mocs and Z. Mason recorded 15. Those four players accounted for all but 14 of Chattanooga's points.
The Black Bears offense came out hot in the first half as the team manufactured a 21-13 lead midway through the first half. Akanda-Coronel was the catalyst for the offense scoring 10 of the 21 points in the run.
The Mocs kept it close scoring eight of the next 12 points capped by a Jones dunk to make it 25-21 with 9:19 let in the half. Akanda-Coronel helped stop the bleeding however, nailing a trey on the next possession to give Maine a seven-point lead.
The Black Bears built its advantage to 11 points with 6:24 left in the frame capped by a Reid-Knight jump shot, making it 34-24. However Chattanooga bridged the gap once again, closing out the half on 14-9 run to end the frame down by just four points, 43-39.
Maine, which has excelled shooting the basketball in this tournament, was red hot once again from the field in the first half, shooting 51 percent (16-of-31) while holding the Mocs to 45 percent (14-of-31).
More importantly Maine edged Chattanooga on the glass 18-17, which has been an area of weakness so far this campaign.
While the Black Bears held the advantage on the scoreboard coming out of the break the squad allowed the Mocs to open up on a 10-0 run and took control of the contest.
Chattanooga extended its lead to 11, six minutes into the half, as McGhee converted a 3-point play making a layup and hitting the ensuing foul shot to make it 58-47.
The Black Bears whittled away at Mocs' lead as the two teams continued to trade punches and eventually knotted the game up at 66-66 as Akanda-Coronel drained a 3-point bucket at the 7:12 mark of the second half.
Reid-Knight hit a trey of his own, two possessions later, to give Maine its second lead of the half giving the Black Bears a slim 69-68 advantage, however White answered right back with a 3-point basket and that was the last time Maine held the lead in the half.
The Black Bears looked threatening down the stretch as a Cato trey made it a one possession ball game with 39 seconds left to play. Maine then forced a Mocs turnover following the impending throw-in but a missed jumper by Akanda-Coronel allowed Mason to rebound the ball and give Chattanooga the possession with the clock ticking away as the squad held on for the 86-80, victory.
The Black Bears finished shooting a respectable 47 percent from the field but second half defense let Maine down as Chattanooga finished the game shooting 51 percent.
Maine not only let the score slip away but also its led in the rebounding department finishing the game with 36 rebounds while Chattanooga took down 41.
The Black Bears begin a whole new season on Sunday night as the squad will share in a double-header with Maine women's basketball as the team hosts Binghamton at 4:30 p.m. at the Cross Insurance Center.