ORONO — In a close game, the team that plays tight defense and executes on offense in the closing minutes usually comes out on top. A case in point was Saturday afternoon’s contest at Alfond Arena.
Brown University took care of business down the stretch, holding the University of Maine in check while scoring on five of its final six possessions to earn a 62-54 men’s basketball victory in front of 1,240 fans.
Peter Sullivan went 13-for-13 from the foul line, including a 6-for-6 effort during the last 2 minutes, 20 seconds, as the Brown Bears (4-3) took care of business with the game on the line, outscoring the Black Bears 10-2 with the game on the line.
“We did a real good job executing,” said Brown coach Jesse Agel. “It was a heck of a game. Both teams really battled hard.”
Coach Ted Woodward’s UMaine team (2-4) found points hard to come by late in the second half. The hosts made only one field goal in the last eight minutes and committed three of their nine turnovers during that span.
The Black Bears, who have lost three in a row, were unable to score on their last three possessions and were forced to foul an opportunistic Brown squad that outrebounded UMaine 40-30.
“I give them credit. They certainly executed at some critical times,” Woodward said.
With the scored deadlocked at 54, Sullivan (21 points) scored off an Andrew McCarthy feed on a high-low play to give Brown the lead with 1:00 remaining. UMaine failed to convert at the other end when Terrance Mitchell missed a runner from the baseline and Brown got the dead-ball rebound.
UMaine fouled and Tucker Halpern (12 points, 10 rebounds) sank both ends of a bonus to make it 58-54 with 24.6 seconds left. The Black Bears again could not score as Raheem Singleton (11 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists) missed on a drive to the hoop.
“They made us work for everything at the end,” said Murphy Burnatowski, who paced UMaine with 15 points, 12 of which came in the first half.
“We had chances to get easy baskets. We should have taken the opportunity,” he added. “We just didn’t get stops when we needed them.”
UMaine fouled again, and Sullivan hit a pair to make it a six-point game with 17 seconds left. UMaine’s Gerald McLemore (six points), who did not play Monday at Quinnipiac because of the flu, then missed a 3-pointer and Sullivan made two more foul shots to clinch it.
“I thought we had a lot of opportunities within three feet of the basket,” Woodward said. “We didn’t come away with a lot of points, unfortunately, throughout the game.”
The Black Bears return to Alfond Arena on Monday for a 7:30 p.m. game against Delaware State.
Garrett Leffelman added nine points for the visitors, who managed only eight assists. Brown had lost Thursday at Hartford.
“It’s been a long week for us and it means an awful lot to me on how well our guys executed and their toughness down the stretch on the road,” Agel said.
Brown shot 48 percent from the floor in the second half and controlled the rebounding throughout. The visitors scored 18 second-chance points to only five for UMaine.
“We’ve got to play better,” Woodward said. “The rebounding is certainly a concern.”
Singleton, a junior guard, was a key for the hosts despite battling flu symptoms. Senior Troy Barnies of Auburn added nine points, seven rebounds and four steals for the Black Bears, who were hampered by foul trouble to Mitchell (18 minutes) and a lingering ankle injury to Sean McNally of Gardiner (13 minutes).
Senior swing player Malachi Peay did not play for UMaine. Woodward said Peay, who was averaging 7.0 points and 3.4 rebounds in almost 22 minutes per game, was neither injured nor ill.
UMaine appeared to seize the momentum starting late in the first half, ending the period with a 9-2 run that sent it into the locker room with a 28-27 lead. The Black Bears extended the advantage by opening the second half with six unanswered points, but never led by more than seven points.
“I like the way we came out in the second half,” Woodward said. “I thought we made a nice push, got in transition some.”
Brown responded with a 12-4 surge that put it back in front, setting up a back-and-forth battle in the last 12 minutes.