April 04, 2020

Maine solid, but can’t convert in final seconds

ORONO – The University of Maine men’s basketball team stopped the unstoppable Speedy Claxton on Saturday.

The Black Bears took care of the basketball (11 turnovers). They got production from inside and the perimeter.

UMaine’s success even prompted Hofstra coach Jay Wright to delay his postgame press conference for 20 minutes as he completed a thorough dressing down of his team.

Despite all the good things UMaine did, and although Hofstra’s performance had Wright seeing red for awhile, guess what?

The Black Bears lost 77-75.

Wills scored 24 points, dished out seven assists, and turned the ball over only once, but when his wide open 3-pointer rattled out at the buzzer, the Black Bears were left with their 10th loss in 12 games in front of 739 fans.

“The only positive I can say about that game is we don’t have to watch a film of a loss on this bus trip [home],” Wright said. “I just think we were lucky as hell. And I’m not being dramatic.”

The Black Bears dropped to 5-12, 2-7 in America East. The Flying Dutchmen moved to 12-8, 6-4.

Maine came roaring out of the gate, nailing 13 of its first 19 shots and taking a 13-point first-half lead. The Dutchmen rallied to trail 44-43 at halftime. Their comeback set the stage for a see-saw second-half battle: neither team led by more than three points over the final 11 minutes.

The final five minutes of play turned into a defensive struggle, as neither team could score. Roberto Gittens knotted the game at 72-72 with 5:41 to go, and each team scored only one more field goal the rest of the way. Maine missed three of four free throws over the final 4:38.

Claxton capped the scoring with a free throw with 11 seconds to play.

After the Black Bears fumbled a pass and emerged from the ensuing scramble with the alternating possession arrow pointing their direction, the Bears had the ball out of bounds in front of their bench with five seconds to go.

Wills sprinted off Ledbetter’s back pick to get the ball, shaved the trailing Claxton off a Colin Haynes screen on the dribble, and pulled up at the top of the key for the final shot. The game-winner wouldn’t stay down.

“If you give me that again, next time I’ll probably make it,” a philosophical Wills said. “I was fortunate enough that coach believed in me to take the shot. It just didn’t work out.”

Ledbetter scored 15 points and grabbed 15 rebounds, while Haynes contributed 13 points and eight boards. Fred Meeks scored 12.

Maine coach John Giannini was pleased with many aspects of the game, but disappointed with the loss. He said the defensive job on the league’s top playmaker was encouraging.

The Black Bears mixed a 3-2 zone with man-to-man to slow Claxton. Wills and Dade Faison drew the assignment of stopping Claxton in the man-to-man.

“Nobody can pressure him,” Giannini said. “He lit up Louisville. He lit up Villanova. He’s gone against good players and really taken over the game. To Marcus and Dade’s credit, he didn’t do that tonight.”

The Dutchmen tried to soften Maine up by firing away from outside, but connected on just eight of 27 3-point attempts.

Claxton finished with 10 points and seven assists, but made just four of 15 shots. Freshman Roberto Gittens scored 18 to go with 13 rebounds, while Duane Posey scored 15 and Norman Richardson notched 13.

“I couldn’t get any open looks,” Claxton said. “I couldn’t really get it going, so I had to try to get my teammates involved.”

Wright said the output by the opportunistic Gittens didn’t come because the Dutchmen were effective getting him the ball.

“Him getting 18 points was a crucial part of the game, but he didn’t get 18 because we got him 18,” Wright said. “He got 18 because he went and got ’em himself.”

Dutchmen 77, Black Bears 75

Hofstra men (12-8) Maine (5-12)


Gittens 7 11 4 4 18 Faison 1 3 0 0 2

Renfro 1 6 0 0 3 Haynes 6 11 1 1 13

Posey 5 9 5 7 15 Ledbetter 7 11 3 6 17

Claxton 4 15 2 4 10 Wills 9 24 3 6 24

Richardson 6 14 0 0 13 Thibodeau 1 1 2 2 5

Davis 3 7 0 0 9 Thompson 1 1 0 0 2

Beckett 3 10 0 0 9 Meeks 5 12 1 2 12

Totals 29 72 11 15 77 Totals 30 63 10 17 75

Hofstra 43 77

Maine 44 75

3-pt. goals: Hofstra (8-27): Renfro 1-5, Richardson 1-6, Davis 3-7, Beckett 3-9; Maine (5-15): Faison 0-2, Haynes 0-3, Wills 3-7, Thibodeau 1-1, Meeks 1-2

Attendance: 739

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