The University of Maine men’s basketball team used solid perimeter shooting to hang around with a talented University of Vermont club for about a half on Wednesday night.
But the Catamounts showed their superiority in talent and depth in pulling away for a 74-53 America East victory over the Black Bears in Burlington, Vermont.
Vermont, the top team in the conference, ran its record to 19-5 overall and 9-0 in America East, while coach Bob Walsh’s Black Bears fell to 5-19 and 1-8, respectively.
The Catamounts, which placed three players in double figures (Andrew Lamb, 15 points; Ernie Duncan, 10 points; and Payton Henson, 13 points) opened the second half on a 12-4 run to take a double-digit lead they would not relinquish.
The Black Bears were led by Ilija Stojiljkovic’s 13 points, while Andrew Fleming had 12 points and Wes Myers 10, but Myers could not find a shooting touch, going 5-for-18 from the floor.
In spite of a shaky shooting output from Myers (1-for-7, 2 points) in the first half, the Black Bears were able to stay in the game behind the interior play of Fleming.
The South Paris native scored 10 of his 12 points over the first 20 minutes, while Dennis Ashley buried a trio of perimeter shots for nine points.
UMaine had led 24-23 with just over eight minutes to play in the opening half, but the Catamounts started to assert themselves, outscoring the Black Bears 16-8 over the final eight-plus minutes to take a 39-32 lead into the locker room.
Lamb’s run-starting layup would give the Catamounts the lead for good.
“We came out and we battled, we were ready to play,” Walsh told Learfield broadcaster Ron Lisnet. “We’re just not good enough. They’re the class of our league. Vermont is in a position that our program isn’t at.”
The Catamounts shot 56.9 percent from the floor and physically wore down the Black Bears in the second half, and Fleming spent most of the final 20 minutes on the bench in foul trouble.
“We had been doing a pretty good job of staying out of foul trouble and tonight we didn’t,” Walsh said. “They scored way too easily. They physically bullied us to the rim and got good shots all night.
UMaine is back in action Saturday afternoon when it hosts Maryland-Baltimore County at the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor.