ORONO – The University of Maine dominated from tip-off to the final buzzer Sunday, grabbing a 66-52 win against Hartford in an America East men’s basketball game at Alfond Arena.

Sean McNally and Junior Bernal led the way for Maine (18-9, 10-4 America East), which remained in third place in the conference heading into the final week of the regular season.

McNally had 16 points and 16 rebounds, and Bernal finished with 13 points, 10 rebounds and six assists.

The Black Bears scored 38 points in the paint and controlled the boards by almost a 2-to-1 margin (49-26).

Maine, which hosts Albany on Wednesday and closes the regular season Saturday at Boston University, is assured of finishing no lower than fourth in the conference.

”We’ve got to keep having the mind-set that nobody is going to come out and hand us a game,” said McNally.

”It’s the end of February going into March. Everyone is going to come out at us. We have to finish out these last two games strong and get our bodies ready for the tournament.”

The Hawks (7-20, 5-9) played without starters Joe Zeglinski, their leading scorer, and Anthony Minor, as well as bench player Andres Torres because of undisclosed suspensions.

That didn’t affect Maine’s game plan much, insisted McNally.

”We came out with the mind-set to lock down all five guys on the floor,” said McNally. ”I don’t think it changed a whole lot. We just had to get a feel for what they do.”

Maine withstood a rally by the Hawks, who closed to within 50-42 with about 6:40 remaining.

Murphy Burnatowski contributed 10 points and seven rebounds, and Terrance Mitchell had 15 points for the Black Bears.

”We’re excited they’ve put themselves in position to do great things,” said Maine Coach Ted Woodward. ”That’s our biggest focus. It’s a place we’re excited about. Still, our focus is, can we get better the next game. Can we still get better?”

If the season ended today, Maine would face Hartford in the opening round of the tournament.

”I’d like another chance at them, yeah,” said Hartford Coach Dan Leibovitz. ”When you scout (Woodward’s) team you see guys who really accept their roles. It’s fundamental, good basketball. I’m happy for him. I know he’s had some tough years.

”I think we have a chance to match up fairly well against them. They are fundamentally sound, but there’s no surprises. It’s a matter of stopping them.”

Maine opened with a 13-4 run and led 32-16 at halftime, getting nine points from Mitchell and six points and four assists from Bernal.

McNally, meanwhile, was a strong presence inside.

”They wore us down physically,” said Leibovitz. ”McNally, we got lucky here and there, but we couldn’t consistently stop him. Fully manned or not, he’s a tough guy.”

Milton Burton scored a career-high 23 points for Hartford.

Staff Writer Jenn Menendez can be contacted at 791-6426 or at:

[email protected]


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