They scored the game’s first 11 points.

This was the one-win University of Maine Black Bears. And they looked ready to put on a show for a southern Maine crowd, surprising perennial power Vermont.

It was a tease.

The Catamounts climbed back for a halftime lead and then blew Maine away for a 68-54 victory Wednesday night before 1,654 at the Portland Expo.

Vermont led by as much as 23 in the second half and cruised. The Catamounts scored 40 of their points in the paint.

“They started driving the ball to the rim and we couldn’t contain,” Maine Coach Bob Walsh said. “It’s just way too easy to score against us. And when it’s that easy, we’re going to struggle to win.”

Maine dropped to 1-13, 0-2 in America East, while Vermont improved to 6-8, 2-0.

The Catamounts ended a four-game losing streak, but play a tough schedule with recent losses to the likes of St. Louis, Southern California and UC-Santa Barbara.

Maine was paced by 6-foot-5 junior Shaun Lawton (12 points, five rebounds) and 6-8 junior Till Gloger (12 points).

In this rebuilding year for the Black Bears, they saw an encouraging performance from freshman guard Kevin Little, who exploded on drives, scoring nine points and dishing four assists in 25 minutes

“He’s a talented kid who missed a lot of time with injuries,” Walsh said. “He’s just getting up to speed. He can create on offense and he can score.”

But Maine’s weakness was again defense. Vermont shot 59 percent from the field while Maine shot 39 percent.

The Black Bears’ 11-0 lead was courtesy of Vermont’s starting with three turnovers and seven missed shots against Maine’s zone defense.

“We haven’t seen a lot of zone and I think we were just staring at it, going too slow,” Vermont Coach John Becker said. “Then we kind of got our footing.”

Three Catamounts hit double figures, led by 6-9 forward Ethan O’Day with 15 points.

The Catamounts caught Maine with better ball movement, while their shots started to fall. Vermont led 28-26 at halftime.

Vermont began the second half with a driving basket by guard Dre Wills. When Wills got inside again, Gloger moved over to help and Wills passed to O’Day for an easy dunk.

Next possession, O’Day got another dunk. Vermont began the second half with a 16-2 run and the rout was on.

“When they went on the run, we never recovered,” Gloger said. “Our offense wasn’t working and we just gave up on defense.

“We always play well in the first half, but then struggle in the second half. We have to play 40 minutes.”

The Catamounts built a 59-36 lead and the subs soon came in.

NOTES: Among the crowd were several high school coaches and players who were admitted for free … This Maine-Vermont series is in its 65th year. The Black Bears still hold a 70-60 overall edge, but the Catamounts have won four straight and 14 of the last 16 games … Maine next plays Saturday at Binghamton. The Black Bears return to Bangor’s Cross Insurance Center next Tuesday to play UMass-Lowell. Vermont plays host to Stony Brook on Saturday.

Kevin Thomas can be reached at 791-6411 or at:

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