ALBANY, N.Y. — About the only positive the University of Maine could take out of a not-so-graceful exit from its basketball season is that no one was injured.
Otherwise, it was a night to forget Saturday as the Black Bears extended their America East tournament futility with an 80-54 quarterfinal loss to Stony Brook at the University at Albany’s SEFCU Arena.
UMaine (6-23) hasn’t won a tournament game since 2005, Coach Ted Woodward’s first season. The six victories this season – one of which came against NAIA school Fisher College – match the program’s lowest total since the 6-14 team of 1956-57.
“We’re disappointed,” said Woodward, whose team led America East in scoring. “We would have liked to have played better, particularly at the offensive end.”
At least in those previous nine tournament losses, UMaine was competitive, losing by an average of 7½ points. The 26-point margin was the Bears’ largest in the tournament since losing 88-59 to Hofstra in 1995. The 54 points was their lowest total of the season.
Asked about his future, Woodward, who has one year remaining on his contract, was noncommittal.
“Those things are out of my hands,” he said. “This is a team I’ve had a tremendous pleasure coaching. We certainly would have liked to have won some more games, but these guys come to work every single day. They worked hard. They have good chemistry.”
The Bears hoped that Sunday’s victory over New Hampshire, which snapped their third losing streak of six or more games, would provide momentum for the tournament. Poor shooting (season-low 31 percent), turnovers (season-high 22) and phantom defense negated that.
Woodward started two juniors and three sophomores off a senior-free roster. Xavier Pollard, a third-team all-America East junior guard, contributed 11 points in 25 minutes before fouling out with 10:24 to play.
“He’s a great player on our team and he’s a lot of our offense, as well,” said freshman Troy Reid-Knight, who scored 10 points, “but we’re a good team and we share the ball. If one person’s out, we have to find other ways.”
Leading 45-20 with two minutes to go in the first half, Stony Brook (22-9), the No. 2 seed, stole the ball and took off on a three-on-one break. Seawolves guard Carson Puriefoy passed one off the backboard to Ahmad Walker for a showtime dunk.
It was pretty much that easy all night for Stony Brook, which will face Hartford or Binghamton – in the semifinals Sunday night.
“Maybe this is a good time for us to be playing good basketball,” Stony Brook Coach Steve Pikiell said.
The Bears tried to press, but the Seawolves shredded it. They tried to play half-court defense, but Stony Brook still got the ball inside, either for layups or free throws. UMaine was outrebounded 44-34, outscored in the paint 36-18 and outscored on fast-break points 10-0.
It was 49-25 at halftime. The lead ballooned to 34 with 16:01 to play, which brought Pollard back into the game despite four fouls. He lasted another 5:37 before picking up his fifth. By that time Stony Brook was substituting liberally. Nine Seawolves played at least 10 minutes.
“They’re obviously an awfully good basketball team,” Woodward said. “Early in the game they did a tremendous job defensively. They took us out of our rhythm and allowed them to get into transition.”
All that was left for UMaine was to look ahead.
“At points we showed we could play basketball against anyone in the America East,” Reid-Knight said.
“Next year will be a big year for us, coming back and having a chip on our shoulder.”