BRUNSWICK — Corteze Isaac sank three free throws with three seconds left to give the University of Southern Maine a 70-68 men’s basketball win over Bowdoin Tuesday night at Morrell Gymnasium.

Isaac’s free throws came after Bowdoin took its only lead of the game with 14 seconds to go, 68-67, on two free throws by Ryan O’Connell.

Isaac then dribbled downcourt, moved to the top of the key and drew a crowd of defenders as he let go an off-balance shot.

The shot missed, but an official’s whistle silenced the crowd. The call: a foul, sending Isaac to the line for three free throws.

“I was thinking: ‘Go to the line. Focus. And go home,’” said Isaac, a 6-foot-3 senior guard.

After Isaac’s third free throw went in, Bowdoin hurried the ball to Randy DeFeo, who launched a shot from beyond midcourt that bounced off the rim.

The Huskies continued their best start in 12 years, improving to 5-1. Bowdoin lost its first game after three wins.

Guard Chris Pagentine scored 18 for USM. Isaac added 16 and 6-7 Sean Bergeron added 10 points and seven rebounds.

Will Hanley, a 6-7 junior, scored 18 for the Polar Bears but was held to six in the second half because of foul trouble.

The Huskies snapped an 11-game losing streak to Bowdoin, the last victory over the Polar Bears coming in 1998.

USM, which won five games combined the past two seasons, seems primed for a winning season.

“It starts with the defense,” Isaac said.

That defense is helped by depth. After experiencing a slew of injuries last year, USM Coach Karl Henrikson can now send out player after player. He used 12 against Bowdoin.

“We’re healthy,” Henrikson said. “We have more depth and that really shows up on defense. We change the tempo of the game defensively.”

USM held the Polar Bears to 31 percent shooting in the first half as the Huskies took a 43-32 lead.

“They play tough on-the-ball pressure and we didn’t do a good job of handling that,” Bowdoin Coach Tim Gilbride said. “I was proud how hard our guys worked in the second half and got us back in the game.”

The Polar Bears came out strong in the second half, scoring the first 10 points. But they could not take the lead, and Henrikson called a timeout to help his team regroup.

“That’s a good basketball team,” Henrikson said. “You know they’re going to make some adjustments and we had to weather the storm.”

Bowdoin’s momentum slowed when Hanley picked up his fourth foul with 14:17 to go and left the game.

Still, Bowdoin kept battling, closing to 67-66 with 1:07 left before missing a free throw to tie it.

With 15 seconds left, USM missed a free throw and O’Connell was fouled while going for the rebound. He sank his shots, setting up the frantic finish and Isaac’s winning foul shots.

The Huskies open their Little East Conference schedule Saturday at Western Connecticut State. The Polar Bears travel to Bates to face the Bobcats on Saturday.

 

Staff Writer Kevin Thomas can be contacted at 791-6411 or at: [email protected]