GORHAM — The University of Southern Maine men’s basketball team never trailed Tuesday night, but Bowdoin College did not make it easy on the Huskies.

USM held steady in the end, holding off the Polar Bears for an 80-79 victory at Hill Gymnasium.

Ahead 72-69, the Huskies (5-1) hit 8 of 8 free throws, including six by Brandon Tomah, to keep the lead.

Tomah hit two clutch foul shots with five seconds left for an 80-76 lead. Bowdoin (3-2) made it a one-point game on Matt Mathias’ 3-pointer with one second to go.

“I was due to make some free throws,” said Tomah, who was only 8 of 14 from the line before hitting 10 of 11 on Tuesday night.

Tomah, a sophomore guard who played his high school ball at Calais, was one of the four Huskies in double figures, scoring 19. Guard Chris Pagentine scored 21 (four 3-pointers), forward Jeremy Jackson 17 and guard Alex Kee of Bath added 15.

Will Hanley, Bowdoin’s 6-foot-7 stellar forward, led everyone with 32 points and 18 rebounds.

But the rest of the Polar Bears couldn’t contribute enough. Bowdoin shot 37 percent to USM’s 47 percent.

“They played very well,” Bowdoin Coach Tim Gilbride said. “They went inside to Jackson, executed well, and got some looks on penetration and kick outs.”

USM took an 8-0 lead, held on at 29-25 at halftime, then pulled away to a 42-27 advantage with 16:08 left.

“I was pretty proud of the way we kept clawing and coming back,” Gilbride said. “But it’s hard to come back against them. They have a lot of good guards. They handle the ball well. And they make free throws.”

That the Huskies bent but didn’t break had USM Coach Karl Henrikson pleased.

“These guys have a lot of character. They really do,” Henrikson said. “They’ve bonded really well together. They’re hanging together. Hanging real tough.

“It’s a different group. We added some key components.”

One component is Tomah, who took last season off.

Jackson, the 6-foot-5 senior from LaPlace, La., remains a key player, giving the Huskies an inside game. He had 13 rebounds along with 17 points, which came from him working for openings inside.

“In the second half I did a better job of moving and getting in position,” Jackson said.

The points were nice, but Jackson was raving about the other end of the court.

“Every position can lock up and play defense,” he said. “That’s where it starts for us.”

 

NOTES: This was the Huskies’ last home game of 2011. They will spend December on the road, returning Jan. 3 for a game against Keene State. Bowdoin returns to Brunswick on Saturday for a 3 p.m. game against UM-Presque Isle.

 

Staff Writer Kevin Thomas can be contacted at 791-6411 or at: [email protected]

Twitter: KevinThomasPPH