BANGOR, Maine — It may have lacked the drama of Super Bowl LI, but any win for the University of Maine men’s basketball team is a treasured commodity these days.

Coach Bob Walsh’s club ended a seven-game losing streak Monday night, limiting Hartford to four field goals in the second half while defeating the Hawks 52-41 at the Cross Insurance Center.

The Black Bears, whose last previous win was a buzzer-beating 73-71 victory over University of Massachusetts at Lowell on Jan. 11, improved their record to 6-20 overall, 2-9 in conference play.

Hartford suffered its sixth straight loss and fell to 6-19 overall while replacing UMaine in the conference cellar with a 1-9 America East mark.

“I thought we showed a lot of grit and toughness tonight, which was really good to see,” said Walsh. “Obviously it wasn’t a very pretty game and we didn’t have our best stuff and neither did they, but we found a way to continue to get stops. When you hold a team to four baskets in the second half you should win the game.”

UMaine was required to grind out this victory because its leading scorer, junior guard Wes Myers, managed just five points on 2 of 11 shooting from the field.

But rather than focus on replacing that missing offense directly — Myers began the night leading all America East scorers with 22.7 points per game in conference play — the Black Bears used defense to create offensive opportunities while outscoring Hartford 32-20 after the Hawks had taken a 21-20 halftime edge.

That defense-first philosophy was particularly true during a 17-4 run midway through the second half that led to Maine securing a 40-28 lead on a steal and drive by sophomore guard Ryan Bernstein with 7:11 left in the game.

“We knew Wes was struggling so we had to start on the defensive end and get stops,” said the 6-foot Bernstein, who finished with seven points and five rebounds despite requiring seven stitches in his right eyelid after a first-half collision. “Wes is really good in transition so if we got stops we pushed the ball. We’ve got good scorers in transition so that’s what we did for those three or four minutes.”

Bernstein’s layup followed a two-handed dunk by freshman forward Andrew Fleming off a midcourt lob from backup point guard Jaquan McKennon to highlight a run that began with strong halfcourt defense from the grouping of McKennon, Marco Pirovic, Austin Howard, Danny Evans and Vincent Eze that helped UMaine hold Hartford without a field goal for nearly seven consecutive minutes during one stretch.

“We stepped up defensively,” said Walsh. “Marco Pirovic, Danny Evans, guys that probably didn’t do a lot in the boxscore necessarily, were in the middle of a run when Hartford did not score and we were able to extend it to eight or 10 because we had a better flow offensively because we got stops.”

By the time Hartford’s Jack Hobbs ended his team’s field-goal drought with a 3-pointer with 5:20 left, Maine still had a 42-33 edge and the Hawks got no closer than seven points the rest of the way.

“We had a good day of preparation, I thought our defense was excellent, we just could not make a shot,” said Hartford coach John Gallagher, whose team made just 12 of 57 (21.1 percent) field-goal tries overall, 4 of 28 (14.3 percent) from beyond the 3-point arc.

Fleming, still rounding back into shape after the combination of an ankle injury and strep throat limited his play throughout January, led a balanced UMaine attack with 11 points and eight rebounds in 32 minutes.

Howard added nine points and six rebounds while Eze contributed seven points and six boards.

Guard Jalen Ross, who began the night averaging 20.2 points per game, scored just 10 points on 2 of 15 shooting for Hartford, while Hobbs also scored 10 points and Hassan Attia grabbed a game-high 13 rebounds.

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Ernie Clark

Ernie Clark is a veteran sportswriter who has worked with the Bangor Daily News for more than a decade. A four-time Maine Sportswriter of the Year as selected by the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters...