Andrew Fleming’s 25-foot 3-pointer as time expired lifted the University of Maine men’s basketball team to a much needed 75-72 men’s basketball victory over Columbia at the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor on Thursday evening.

The Black Bears rallied from a 13-point, second-half deficit to end a four-game losing streak — during which they were outscored by an average of 28-5 points — and improve their record to 4-10 entering Sunday afternoon’s America East opener against Stony Brook.

“The resiliency and resolve we showed in the second half was really gratifying to me,” UMaine coach Richard Barron said. “It would have been real easy for them to hang their heads and say here goes another one and just let it happen again but they were great down the stretch.”

Columbia fell to 4-11.

Columbia’s Ike Nweke tied the game at 75-75 with two free throws with 2.9 seconds left in overtime.

UMaine then inbounded the ball and quickly worked it to Fleming in the frontcourt, where he dribbled to square up to the basket and then launched from long range for his first buzzer-beating game winner since a deciding layup against Lewiston during his junior year at Oxford Hills High School in South Paris.

“I just got the ball and I figured a couple of dribbles and then take the shot,” Fleming said. “I got to my spot in the middle of the court where I like to shoot from and put it up.”

UMaine’s other senior starter, guard Sergio El Darwich, helped give the Black Bears a chance to win by scoring his team’s final seven points of regulation and first seven points of overtime.

That run included a drive with 1.3 seconds left in regulation to forge a 65-65 tie and a step-back 3-pointer early in overtime to give the Bears a 68-65 lead, their first lead since 11-8.

“Coming into this game coach wanted me to post up because of the height difference and I’m usually comfortable close to the basket,” El Darwich said. “In the first half I wasn’t doing that and in the second half coach got on me and I made a couple of them early and got it going.

“Coach had trust in me.”

Fleming finished with a game-high 26 points and 11 rebounds while El Darwich scored 24 points.

Columbia guard Mike Smith, who entered the game as the ninth-leading scorer in NCAA Division I at 22.0 points per game, led the Lions with 20 points but was limited to 5-of-20 shooting from the field.

Columbia was aided by a 29-of-33 effort from the free-throw line but made just 5 of 8 during overtime.

Columbia got a 2-for-9 shooting performance from Smith and shot just 27 percent from the field (7 of 26) overall, but still managed a 30-26 halftime lead by making all 12 of its free-throw tries.

That compared to just 3 of 7 from the line for UMaine, which also struggled from the field at 35.7 percent (10 for 28) over the game’s first 20 minutes.

Columbia stole the ball on UMaine’s first two possessions of the second half and got a slam dunk from Tai Bibbs and a layup from Smith to quickly regain momentum, and the Lions eventually built their lead to as much as 47-34 6 1/2 minutes into the second half.

But UMaine clawed back with some inspired play near the basket as Fleming scored 11 points over a five-minute stretch while Solomon Iluyomade and Stephane Ingo (eight points, six rebounds) came off the bench to provide an energy burst.

UMaine was still down 64-58 with 2:50 left, but El Darwich was just getting started. He scored first with a post-up move to close the gap to 64-60 and on a conventional three-point play with 38.5 seconds remaining and then with another foray into the lane with 1.3 seconds left to send the game to overtime.

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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...