Mikey Watkins’ 3-pointer with 34.5 seconds remaining lifted Merrimack College to a 49-47 non-conference men’s basketball victory over the University of Maine at the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor on Tuesday night.
The win improves Merrimack to 5-8 this season, including a 3-1 mark against America East opponents with victories over UMaine, New Jersey Institute of Technology and Hartford and a loss to UMass Lowell.
UMaine dips to 3-7 overall, but 0-7 against NCAA Division I competition. The Black Bears conclude their non-conference schedule on Dec. 29 at Rutgers, whose current 5-5 record includes a 70-68 victory on Dec. 9 over Big 10 Conference rival Purdue, then ranked No. 1 in the country.
Offensive rebounding was pivotal for Merrimack in the final minutes.
A 3-pointer by junior guard LeChaun Duhart gave UMaine a 47-44 lead with 1:36 remaining, but Merrimack’s Jordan Minor then rebounded his own missed free throw to set up a layup by Watkins that made it a one-point game with 1:07 to play.
The Warriors got the ball back after a UMaine turnover, and while Ziggy Reid missed a go-ahead 3-point try teammate Malik Edmead grabbed the offensive rebound and Merrimack worked the ball around the perimeter to Watkins, who buried his first 3-pointer of the night from beyond the right side of the key for what turned out to be the winning basket.
Watkins, a senior guard who had made just 6 of 29 3-pointers this season entering the contest, also missed his four previous 3-point tries during the game.
The game-winner was one of just three 3-pointers Merrimack made in 18 attempts during the game.
“Mike made a big shot down the stretch and he was due for that,” Merrimack coach Joe Gallo said. “He’s been shooting great in practice and was getting a little down on himself early in the game, but he came up huge.”
Minor paced Merrimack with 13 points and 10 rebounds while Watkins and Edmead each scored nine and Reid had eight points and 11 rebounds.
DuHart and Adefolalrin Adetogun led UMaine with 10 points each. Vukasin Masic added seven points, six rebounds and five assists while Ata Turgut contributed seven points and six rebounds,
UMaine shot 37.8 percent (17 of 45) from the field overall, 5 of 18 (27.8 percent) on 3-point tries and 8 of 13 (61.5 percent) on free-throw attempts. Merrimack made 17 of 55 field-goal tries, or 30.9 percent, and 12 of 21 free-throw attempts, or 57.1 percent.
“Everybody’s tough to beat on the road,” Gallo said. “To win road games you’ve got to defend, you’ve got to rebound [and] you’ve got to take care of the ball, and we only had four turnovers tonight. It would be nice if a couple more of those basketballs went in the hoop for us, but I was happy with the way we scrapped.”