BANGOR, Maine – The Maine men's basketball team recorded back-to-back wins for the first time this season as the team edged the UMBC Retrievers, 83-80, at the Cross Insurance Center, Saturday afternoon. With the win the Black Bears improve to 5-16 and 3-6 in conference while UMBC falls to 7-15 and 3-6 in America East play.
The Retrievers used a strong second half surge to tie the game up with 7:21 left in the game, after being down by 20 points at halftime, but the Black Bears held on for the victory.
It was a tale of two halves for the Black Bears as Maine outscored the Retrievers, 56-36 in the first frame while UMBC took over in the second half to the tune of 44-27.
Maine's junior leadership paced the offense as Xavier Pollard and Zarko Valjarevic both tallied 18 points to lead the team. Marko Pirovic had his best game as a Black Bear, nearly completing the double-double with 13 points and nine boards. Pollard came close to a double-double as well as he added seven assists to his double-figure point total.
UMBC got offense from the usual suspects as Chase Plummer scored 23 points while Rodney Elliot tallied 21, in the loss.
The Black Bears outrebounded the Retrievers 42-41 in the game, as it's only the fourth time this season that the Black Bears have won the battle for the boards.
The Retrievers opened the game on a brief 6-2 run in the opening two minutes but the Black Bears went on a 13-0 run of their own, capped by a Killian Cato trey at the 15:12 mark, as the team came out of the under 16:00 minute media timeout.
UMBC came back as both David Kadiri and Chase Plummer exploited Maine in the paint for a few baskets to cut the lead to 17-13, but Maine got that lead back out to 12 minutes later as Pollard nailed a 3-pointer at the 10:06 mark to make it 28-16.
Maine kept the pressure up never dipping below a double-figure lead and got it out to hits biggest margin at the 2:07 mark of the first half, as Valjarevic drained a 3-pointer taking a pass for Troy Reid-Knight, to make it 55-31.
The Retrievers closed out the half on a 5-1 run in the final minute to make it a clean, 20-point deficit, as Maine led 56-36 headed into halftime.
Maine shot a 55 percent in the first half with Pollard (14 points) and Valjarevic (11 points) doing the most damage.
For UMBC it was Elliott and Plummer with nine and six, respectively as the team shot a collective 42 percent from the field.
As has been the case in several of the team's conference games this season, the Black Bears struggled in the second half.
Valjarevic made it a 21 point lead with 16:58 left in the game but from that point UMBC began to whittle away at the lead.
It started with a Plummer layup in the paint that made it 61-43, which began a 24-5 run by the Retrievers in the span of just under seven minutes, tying the game up at 66-66.
The squads traded the lead three times before the Black Bears took control for good, as Valjarevic broke the 73-73 tie by hitting a jumper with 4:03 left in the game.
It was then Ethan Mackey who muscled his way into the paint and laid in a bucket to give Maine a 77-73 lead.
Plummer cut it back down to two with a jumper on the next possession but, Valjarevic, who hit six treys in his last game against UMBC, hit a clutch 3-pointer following the Plummer make, to get the lead out to 80-75.
The Retrievers were relentless however as three free throw makes once again brought UMBC within striking distance of the lead, 80-78.
Reid-Knight was clutch from the stripe in the final minute of the game, hitting 3-of-4 from the free throw line as the Black Bears limited UMBC to just two free throw makes, as the Black Bears held on to defeat UMBC 83-80 and split the season series.
The Black Bears will be on the road for the next two games as the squad takes on Vermont in Burlington, Vt., on Tuesday night and then they have a weekend showdown with Binghamton on Saturday afternoon. Those games times are slated for 7 p.m. and 2 p.m., respectively.