The University of Maine men’s basketball team beat Presbyterian College 80-66 on Friday, winning its second game at the First Coast Classic.
Prior to UMaine’s efficient all-around showing, Presbyterian (4-1) had been undefeated, averaging 80 points per game and beating tournament host University of North Florida 81-69 Thursday.
With the victory, the Black Bears improved to 3-2, and 2-0 at the First Coast Classic. They defeated Northwestern State 78-65 Thursday and could win the four-team tournament outright by beating UNF at 5 p.m. Saturday.
“We’re playing good basketball,” second-year head coach Chris Markwood said. “That was a gritty, gutsy effort from our team, and the guys are excited to be down here.”
The Black Bears’ defense was especially suffocating in the first half, limiting Presbyterian to only 25 points on 10-for-25 shooting, stealing the ball 6 times and forcing 9 total turnovers. UMaine finished the night with 9 steals and 15 forced turnovers, out rebounding Presbyterian 26-23.
On the offensive end, senior Peter Filipovity used a steal and an offensive board to help pour in UMaine’s first 10 points, and fifth-year player Ja’Shonte Wright-McLeish nailed two 3-pointers en route to a 32-25 lead at the break.
“We moved the ball well, and guys stepped up and made some bigtime individual plays,” Markwood said. “You have to have that.”
Wright-McLeish is now shooting 12-for-23 from deep so far this year, and made his 100th career 3-pointer on Friday. As a team, UMaine shot 7-for-13 from three on the night — its second straight game above 40 percent.
The end of the second half was an offensive explosion for both sides, with the 3-ball being especially potent. From 11:00 to 3:00, the score ballooned from 46-41 in favor of UMaine to 70-61, with a combined five of six threes going in during that stretch.
Presbyterian’s junior forward Jonah Pierce scored eight points in a row for the Blue Hose during their hot streak, and finished with 16 points off the bench.
Meanwhile, UMaine’s deep shots came from the hands of juniors Kellen Tynes and AJ Lopez, who each shot 50 percent from the field and finished with 18 and 17 points, respectively. Filipovity was crafty down low, leading all scorers with 19 points on 7-for-8 shooting. Tynes was UMaine’s leading assist man with four.
“Peter came out of the gate in attack mode and gave us a huge boost on offense,” Markwood said. “They couldn’t handle him in the post — he’s a tough, productive kid.”
Despite the wild finish, the Black Bears did not trail at any point in the second half, and managed to slow the pace down in crunch time to seal their second consecutive win. UMaine hopes to have put their early-season shooting woes — 36.6 percent shooting against Charlotte and Merrimack — in the rearview mirror, shooting a combined 53 percent the past two nights.