Thursday, February 19, 2009

New Hampshire 63, Black Bears 54

They all hurt. But this one really, really hurt. Bad. For the fourth time during the America East season, the Black Bears built themselves a double-digit lead only to ultimately fall in the end.

Needing a win for a season sweep that would move them up to sixth-place in the league standings and out of the play-in game of the conference tournament, the Black Bears put on a solid display of basketball for about 32, 33 minutes. And then it all vanished.

Thursday night in Durham, New Hampshire trailed the Black Bears 48-38 with about 7 minutes and change to go. The Wildcats went on an inexplicable 18-0 run and won going away in front of the largest crowd I've ever seen at Lundholm Gym (many of them left at halftime of a close game, which is a story for another paragraph).

The Wildcats moved to 11-14 overall, 6-7 in America East, and is on the verge of solidifying a place in the tournament's 4-5 game. Maine drops to 9-17, 4-9 and must win at Albany Sunday to have any hope of getting out of the play-in game.

It'd be easy to point to a brutal offensive foul call against Gerald McLemore as the reason for UMaine's implosion. But teams must be able to withstand blown calls that go against them. That one call didn't cause a six-minute scoring drought.

McLemore was the only Black Bear in double figures with 15. Sean McNally (eight points, 10 rebounds) waged a battle all night with the Wildcats' Dane Diliegro (21 points, 12 rebounds).

Mark Socoby had nine points and Kaimondre Owes eight for UMaine.

Turnovers really stung as UNH tallied 13 points off 16 Black Bear miscues. Many of them coming at the most critical junctures. The Wildcats only turned it over 10 times for two UMaine points.

I just took another glance at my final stat sheet (Thanks, Jim) and noticed the attendance was 2,214. It was a great atmosphere for a college game even if most of the students left at the break. Heck, there were even people leaving when the Black Bears went up 10. The thought ocurred to me at that point, UMaine must keep them heading for the exits and take the air out of the building.

But it ended up going the other way; somehow it was the Black Bears that went pffffft.

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