University of Maine’s Kellen Tynes (1), Jaden Clayton (3) and teammates react to a play in the second half of their game against UMaine Augusta in Orono on Dec. 8, 2022. The Black Bears won 103-67. Credit: Linda Coan O'Kresik | BDN

Jaden Clayton scored at the hoop after a deceptive hesitation move, then drilled two free throws in the final seconds to help the University of Maine men’s basketball team secure a 72-68 win over the University of Albany on Saturday night.

The Black Bears (9-12) trailed by as many as 13 points at Albany on Saturday but turned the second half around quickly. UMaine’s win is its third in a row after suffering through an eight-game losing streak.

Clayton stole the ball for a second time and found Ja’Shonté Wright-McLeish at the hoop for an easy basket and a lead with 5:35 left, 58-56.

UMaine head coach Chris Markwood said that over the course of UMaine’s winning streak, Clayton’s defense has taken another level.

“The biggest change for him, especially during these wins, is he’s really turned into a heck of a defender,” Markwood said. “He was guarding (Binghamton’s Jacob) Falko, one of the best guards in the conference, and did a tremendous job. He had big-time defensive plays against Lowell and understood what we needed to do. Then tonight he was doing a lot of things on that end.”

With 4:17 left, Clayton scored at the hoop as part of his 12-point performance, but on the play UMaine’s Kristians Feierbergs got hurt and left the game with an apparent left leg injury.

Ata Turgut hit a 3-pointer off an assist from Clayton, one of four on the night, to put UMaine ahead 67-63 with 2:20 to play. On the ensuing UMaine possession, Clayton dribbled into the paint and made a hesitation move that fooled both his defenders which led to a wide-open layup.

“He scored the ball, had a really tough runner, crafty hesitation to move to score the layup and then hit two free throws,” Markwood said. “He really controlled the game late. I thought he got the raw end of a couple fouls and we had to bench him early and that’s when we put him back in. One of my assistants said we had to put him back in and we did and he was big getting us into striking distance before halftime.”

Albany’s Sarju Patel hit a 3-pointer with 11 seconds left to pull the Great Danes (6-17) within two, but it was too little, too late.

After an up-and-down first half for the Black Bears, Wright-McLeish was there to right the ship.

Wright-McLeish scored five quick points to begin the second half to pull UMaine into a tie, 36-36, with 17:30 to play.

Wright-McLeish led the way with 16 points for UMaine.

“He obviously had a huge game for us and he’s been playing great since conference play started,” Markwood said of Wright-McLeish. “He’s been shooting well and I thought he gave us a big spark. We ran a play not necessarily for him but it’s kind of like a motion set that we run and he got a good look off it. He was feeling good so we made more plays for him and he made the shots.”

The senior wing then hit a 3-pointer with 14:20 to play to give UMaine’s its biggest lead of the game, 45-40. 

“For us he’s a big deal,” Markwood said. “He’s typically playing against the other team’s four and I thought he did a really good job on his man and was a big reason we pulled one out on the road.”

The senior wing then hit a 3-pointer with 14:20 to play to give UMaine’s its biggest lead of the game, 45-40.

Albany went on a quick 9-2 run before Kellen Tynes, Maine’s star do-it-all guard, earned one of his five steals on the night and sprinted the other way for a dunk that tied the game at 49-49.

In the second half, UMaine forced six turnovers while only committing one as a team.

Albany’s Trey Hutcheson drained a triple to give the Great Danes a three-point lead with 10:29 to play.

Wright-McLeish drilled another triple to pull within two, then two minutes later Clayton stole the ball and drove up the court, finding Turgut who dropped it off to Tynes for an easy layup on the fast break.

On the next possession, Tynes stole the ball again and was all alone for a layup that tied the contest up at 56-all with seven minutes to play.

Tynes entered Saturday’s game as the NCAA Division I leader in steals-per-game with 3.05.

Gedi Juozapaitis added 15 points for UMaine who will travel to Bryant on Wednesday.

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Adam Robinson

Adam Robinson is a native of Auburn, Maine, and graduate of Husson University and Edward Little High School. He enjoys sports, going on runs and video games.