Saturday, March 8, 2014
By MATT ZIMMER Special to the Press Herald
SIOUX FALLS, S.D. - Maine used a balanced scoring attack and strong defensive effort to cruise to a road victory over suddenly slumping Sioux Falls, as the Red Claws sent the Skyforce to a third straight home loss with a 106-94 win before 2,682 fans.
SATURDAY: Maine Red Claws at Sioux Falls Skyforce, 8 p.m.
MONDAY: Springfield Armor at Red Claws, 1 p.m.
DaJuan Summers had 22 points and 12 rebounds for the Claws, while Xavier Silas added 19 points and six assists. Six Red Claws finished in double figures overall.
The win keeps Maine atop the Eastern Division at 9-4, as they prepare to face the Skyforce again on Saturday night.
"When you play together and play defense you're going to win more than you're going to lose," said Silas, who was 7-for-12 from the floor. "We just kept playing our game and doing the things we've been doing."
Maine dominated the first and third quarters, allowing them to take an 87-70 lead into the final stanza. While the hosts showed enough life to pull within striking distance, the Claws made the key shots and stops down the stretch to hang on for a victory.
A pair of free throws by Skyforce center Dexter Pittman -- his first game back in Sioux Falls after being sent down from the Miami Heat -- pulled the Force to 99-90 with four minutes to go. But they were unable to further cut the lead, and Skyforce Coach Joel Abelson was hit with a technical foul. Maine used that to push the lead to 104-90 on a dunk by Champ Oguchi, essentially putting the game away.
Clearly the frustration had boiled over for Abelson, who saw his team commit over 20 turnovers for the second game in a row.
"I thought our effort was better but we turned it over 21 times," Abelson said. "There's unforced errors and we go through periods where we just stop competing and doing the things we're supposed to do, and it goes from a tight game to being down 20 in the blink of an eye."
The Claws took control early using their defense, as they forced seven Sioux Falls turnovers in the first quarter while holding the Skyforce (7-5) to 37 percent shooting to build a 28-18 lead. But the Force bounced back, erasing the deficit to take a 45-44 lead, though Maine would take a 52-49 edge into the locker room at halftime. Sioux Falls had a distinct size advantage, and won on the glass with a 50-36 rebounding edge.
Arnett Moultrie had 18 points to lead Sioux Falls, while Demetris Nichols had 17 and seven rebounds.
"They're an excellent team and they're so much bigger and more physical than us," said Claws Coach Mike Taylor, who got 14 points and six rebounds from Fab Melo.
"They hurt us on the boards but our guys did a great job of executing the defensive game plan and working together on offense.
"We're just really proud of the way the guys are playing right now."