BANGOR — After watching his Maine men’s basketball team get manhandled in the first half Wednesday, Coach Bob Walsh gave what should have been a simple assignment to his assistant coaches.

“Find five guys that we could put out there that we knew would just compete,” Walsh said.

The dilemma for the Black Bears is they could muster just one – freshman center Devine Eke – and that wasn’t nearly enough to overcome Army. The Black Knights prevailed 84-71 before an announced crowd of 1,192 at the Cross Insurance Center.

“Devine was the one person at halftime that we said just competed without fear,” Walsh said after Eke put up career highs of 29 points and 16 rebounds.

“The rules tell us we’ve got to find four more, so we put five out there. … He was the one guy that I saw personal pride from. No matter what was going on, I could tell how much it mattered to him. He wasn’t afraid of what was going to happen to him if he failed.”

Maine fell behind 50-29 at halftime after leading for a mere 50 seconds, shooting 1 of 8 on 3-point attempts with 12 turnovers. Army (5-2) played at a breakneck pace, and the Black Bears (2-4) were no match.


So Walsh went with Eke and four guards to start the second half – Lavar Harewood, Ryan Bernstein, Walter King and Troy Reid-Knight.

Bernstein and King are walk-ons. It was obvious what he thought of his team’s early showing.

Behind Eke, Maine rallied to cut the deficit to 11, but the Army lead was too much to overcome. Eke had eight offensive rebounds and hit 14 of his 18 shots, three of them dunks, as he blistered the slower Black Knight interior defenders.

Eke, the most outgoing and fun-loving of the Black Bears, claimed his big game was fueled by a pregame talk with one of his brothers. He was told, he said, that for every rebound he got, that meant one more day his mother, Lilian, would live.

“I love my mother, so that’s my motivation to go get my rebounds,” said Eke, who now has 43 in his career.

Is his mother in poor health?


“No, she’s fine,” he said, breaking into a smile. “I’ve been a mama’s boy since I was little.”

Kevin Little added 16 points and four assists for Maine, having a much stronger second half after his surprise benching at the outset. Bernstein contributed 11 points. The Black Bears turned the ball over only four times in the second half and held the Black Knights to 34 percent shooting.

“They just play at a good pace and they maintain their pace and they do it under control. In the first half, we beat ourselves,” Little said.

“We just got a little sloppy with the ball. The speed of the game, we just couldn’t handle it.”

Walsh didn’t want to hear any praise for his team’s second-half performance. In his mind, a belated surge did not erase a weak fist half. “It’s easy to compete when there’s nothing on the line,” he said. “It’s hard to compete when everything you value is at risk. You value winning.

“We were facing a good team. They took it to us, and we let them.”


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