PORTLAND — The Maine Red Claws fell apart in the second half Sunday night and lost 106-91 to the Rio Grande Valley Vipers at the Expo.

The Vipers used exceptional ball movement to spread the game and exposed Maine’s inability to defend the perimeter.

With third quarter runs of 12-2 and 11-0, the Vipers turned a game tied at 50 at the half into a one-sided show.

“They do a good job moving the ball and they execute well,” said Maine Coach Austin Ainge. “I thought we didn’t fight through their runs enough. It was too big of a momentum shift.”

The Red Claws, now 14-23, went just 2-6 in February. They sit in 13th place in the league standings.

Only the top eight qualify for the playoffs.

“We just have to take it one game at a time,” said guard Mario West. “We didn’t get it done tonight so we have to go back to the drawing board.”

Former Red Claw Matt Janning hit 4 of the 11 3-pointers the Vipers scored.

He said his experience with a team in the playoff hunt has been fun.

“We tried to space the floor, which loosens it up for our guys inside,” said Janning, who scored 18 on Sunday. “It’s always fun to be on a winning team. There’s not as much stress and we have fun together.”

Maine trailed 26-25 after the first quarter and fell further behind in the second before using a 10-2 run down the stretch to enter halftime tied at 50.

Things went down hill quickly in the second half.

The Vipers used four straight 3-pointers to go on a 12-4 run, then ended the third quarter with an 11-0 run to take an 84-69 lead.

The gap widened considerably in the fourth with the Vipers holding a 24-point lead at one point.

“They just moved the ball well,” said Maine’s DeShawn Sims, who finished with 24 points. “They’ve got great shooters.”

The Golden State Warriors signed former University of Connecticut standout Jeff Adrien from the Vipers after Thursday’s 107-101 win over the Claws.

The Vipers had to adjust, but they remain a very strong team.

“They have a lot of guys who can shoot from all over and we can’t get into a scoring battle with a team like that,” said Ainge.

Guard Jerel McNeal scored a game-high 26 points and center Patrick Sullivan put in 21.

Maine has 12 games in March, seven of them at the Expo.

“It’s clich?ut all we can do is try to win the next one,” said Ainge. “We’re trying to get better.”

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

[email protected]


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