BIDDEFORD — On the final play of its first Commonwealth Coast Conference game of the year, the University of New England men’s basketball team was unable to get off a clean shot because of some strong, physical defense by Wentworth, which held on for a 59-57 victory at Harold Alfond Forum on Wednesday night.

“I thought it was a foul, but we put ourselves in a bad situation,” said UNE Coach Ed Silva. “A lot of times, late in games, you see plays like that maybe not get called. You have to move on from that. We had plenty of opportunities.”

The Nor’easters were facing a deficit because of a lackluster first half in which they never fully clicked on either end of the floor. They were held to 21 points and were unable to contain Kyle Romich, who had 16 of his game-high 26 in the first half.

“It was our mentality,” said Silva. “We’re still a relatively young team. These guys have never been in this situation before, where we’re 5-2, playing at home, people are coming to our games and excited about us. I told them at halftime, I thought we were afraid of the moment, afraid of the first league game. We were really tight in the first 10 or 12 minutes.”

In those opening 12 minutes, the Leopards (2-3, 1-0 CCC) raced to an early lead behind impressive 3-point shooting. Wentworth connected on seven 3’s before the half, four from Romich.

“We let him get loose early and didn’t really pay enough attention to him,” said Silva. “In the second half, our closeouts were better on him. He can drive, and tonight he shot really well on 3-pointers, but we just kind of let him get going and once he was going he was going to make tough shots.”

The defense came alive in the second half as the Nor’easters (5-3, 0-1 CCC) surrendered one more basket from beyond the arc the rest of the way.

“They’re a good half-court, defensive team. They grind you,” said Silva. “They want to keep these games in the 50s and 60s, and we want the games in the 80s right now. We came out in that first 10 minutes and we just weren’t right for the moment. We go play Bates or Bowdoin at their gym, and we’re the underdog, and we played loose and free. We got back to that in the second half.”

Matt Lettick (13 points, 8 rebounds) and CJ Autry (15 points, 6 rebounds) led UNE charging back, with the Nor’easters tying the game in the final minute before Romich knocked down the winning basket with 3.8 seconds left.

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