ORONO – Times are tough for University of Maine sports.
The football team won once in Orono this past fall. The men’s hockey team has gone all 11 games without a victory at Alfond Arena.
But men’s basketball? This was a team with a winning record at home, solidly in the middle of the America East standings, and pursuing the elusive dream of earning a first-ever berth in the NCAA men’s tournament.
That possibility seemed more like fantasy Saturday. The Black Bears fell 57-56 to a Binghamton team that had lost 12 straight and trailed by 13 points late in the first half.
“We got out of being in attack mode,” said Maine Coach Ted Woodward. “And on the defensive end, we just could not get stops. It’s been a concern of ours throughout the season.”
A crowd of 1,273 at The Pit inside Memorial Gym watched the Black Bears (7-11, 2-3 America East) fritter away an 11-point halftime lead before coming alive down the stretch.
Binghamton (3-16, 1-5) used a 16-3 run to take a 48-47 lead, its first of the game.
“I don’t think we’ve beaten them since I’ve been in college,” said Binghamton senior Jimmy Gray. “It’s a tough environment, a tough atmosphere.”
Maine’s one field goal during the Binghamton comeback was a 3-pointer by Jon Mesghna, which seemed to give the Black Bears some breathing room.
Instead, Gray answered with a deep 3-pointer of his own, foreshadowing the game’s final seconds.
With the score tied, Maine ran down the clock before Justin Edwards drove the lane. He missed, but Alasdair Fraser’s tap-in gave the Black Bears a 56-54 lead with eight seconds left.
Instead of calling a timeout, Binghamton inbounded the ball to Gray, who raced up the left sideline, hesitated, then launched a 3-pointer that swished through the net with two seconds remaining.
“I told our guards, whether (Maine) scored or not, I wanted them to attack first,” said first-year Binghamton coach Tommy Dempsey. “If I didn’t like what I saw, I would pull the trigger on a timeout.”
Gray’s hesitation prompted Dempsey to consider stopping the action to set up an out-of-bounds play.
“But before I could call it, (Gray) raised up and made the coach look like a smart guy for not calling it,” Dempsey said.
Mesghna launched a desperation heave from just over halfcourt that hit the backboard and rim before bouncing away as the clock expired.
“It had a chance,” Mesghna said. “Every shot I take has a chance.”
Freshman Jordan Reed led Binghamton with 20 points and 10 rebounds. Gray added 14 points.
Edwards, with 12 points, was the only Black Bear to reach double figures. With Binghamton packing the middle with a 2-3 zone defense, Maine had plenty of open outside shots. The Black Bears were just 6 of 26 from 3-point range. Zarko Valjarevic made 3 of 7 for nine points.
“When our shots aren’t falling when they’re playing a zone,” Edwards said, “it’s kind of hard to score a lot.
“Bottom line, our shots weren’t falling.”
And so the home team fell. Again.
Staff Writer Glenn Jordan can be contacted at 791-6425 or at: