BANGOR – UMBC overcame shooting woes and gutted out a 72-67 victory at Maine on Wednesday evening.
Graduate student guard Jairus Lyles (Silver Spring, Md./DeMatha) led five Retrievers in double figures with 16 points. Freshman post Daniel Akin (Eltham, England) keyed a late rally and recorded season highs with 11 points and seven rebounds.
The Retrievers improved to 11-7 overall and 2-1 in America East play, while Maine slipped to 4-12, 1-2.
Senior guard K.J. Maura (San Juan, P.R.) hit a pair of free throws to give UMBC a 63-61 lead with 2:19 remaining. Then, after a defensive stop, Maura buried a long trey from the top of the key and the Retrievers led by five with 1:38 remaining. The Black Bears had four shots on an extended next possession and finally converted on an Andrew Fleming lay-up with 19 seconds left. Lyles converted two free throws one second later, but Maine's Aaron Calixte drew the hosts to within 68-65 on a layup with 9.9 seconds left.
The Bears pressed full court, but UMBC sophomore forward Max Curran (Hooksett, N.H,) beat the Maine defense down the court for a dunk. Maine would score again with one second remaining before Maura hit two free throws with 0.6 seconds remaining to seal the victory.
The Retrievers entered the game ranked No. 1 in the nation in treys per game (12.0), but managed to convert only 7-of-26 in the game. UMBC also misfired on seven of their first eight free throw attempts of the second half and recorded 12 misses in 29 attempts (58.6 percent) for the game.
Defensively, however, UMBC held Maine to only 37.1 percent shooting (23-of-62) from the floor and forced 19 Black Bear miscues. Lyles and Maura, ranked 1-2 in the America East in steals each recorded three.
UMBC never trailed in the first half, but poor shooting and the inability to turn 12 Maine turnovers in more than 11 points prevented the Retrievers from building a bigger lead. A free throw by Akin gave the visitors their largest lead at 26-17, with 7:54 to play in the frame, but the Black Bears stayed within close range and trailed just 33-26 at the break.
The Retrievers made only 2-of-14 shots from long distance, while Maine struggled inside, converting only 5-of-17 inside the arc.
UMBC built the lead to 11 points at 41-30 early in the second half, but a 12-2 run by Maine quickly sliced the lead to 43-42. The Retrievers briefly steadied, but Maine converted 11 of 12 free throws in the early stages of the second half and would take a 55-49 advantage with 9:00 remaining.
Still trailing, 57-54, Akin went to work, coming up with five consecutive points to put the Retrievers back in front, 59-57, with 5:50 to play. He finished 3-for-3 from the floor, 5-for-9 from the stripe and plucked six of his seven caroms off the offensive glass.
The Retrievers extended their winning streak to seven in a row over Maine and now lead the series, 18-13.
UMBC heads south from Bangor and will take on UMass Lowell on Saturday, Jan. 13. Tip-off time at Tsongas Center is slated for noon.