BANGOR — Even when his Maine men’s basketball team bullied its way back into the game Wednesday, Coach Bob Walsh felt “it was a little bit of fool’s gold.”

Vermont proved him right, displaying all of the precious mettle in the second half to run away with a 90-72 victory in the America East Conference opener before an announced crowd of 1,024 at the Cross Insurance Center.

The Black Bears (4-10) had erased an early nine-point deficit to forge a 40-40 tie at halftime. But that was little solace to Walsh, who believed his team was still getting outcompeted and allowing too many easy scores.

“I felt Vermont was better than us for the majority of the half. And we showed a lot of fight, we sped them up, we got them uncomfortable. I felt good about that,” Walsh said after Maine lost a sixth consecutive game against the Catamounts (9-7) “The hard part was at 40-40 after coming back … I didn’t think we had any chance playing the way we were playing.”

Vermont turned the ball over four times and was visibly flustered when Maine went on an 18-3 run to take a 36-30 lead with 2:28 left in the first half. The referees were allowing a great deal of contact, and the Black Bears were aggressively trapping the Catamounts’ guards. At one point, Vermont’s Trae Bell-Haynes lost his temper and bear-hugged Maine’s Ryan Bernstein on the way to the basket, drawing a flagrant foul.

The Catamounts are an experienced, disciplined team, however, and when the second half began, the tone had changed. Maine was the harried team, committing unforced turnovers (Vermont scored 21 points off of 18 of them). Catamounts senior center Ethan O’Day, who scored 19 points, including the 1,000th of his career, became the focus of the offense. He also had a game-high five assists as Vermont began using quick passes to avoid Maine’s double-teams. The officials started calling the game tighter, and Maine racked up 21 fouls, which Vermont turned into 20 points.

“Maine plays a chaotic, frenetic type of defense and it just takes a little while to get used to,” Vermont Coach John Becker said. “You don’t really ever play against a team that plays like that, so there was really no flow to the game early and it was just kind of one-on-one basketball, kind of like a pickup game.”

“I thought Ethan early in the second half kind of established us.”

Bell-Haynes scored a game-high 27 points, draining all seven of his free throws.

Maine was led by 13 points from center Till Gloger, but he could play only 15 minutes because of a lower back injury that forced him to miss the past two days of practice and had him hobbling like an old man. Having to contend with O’Day didn’t help matters.

“It was hard to defend him one-on-one, so he was going at me the beginning of the second half,” Gloger said.

“It bothers me when I run, especially when I go to sidesteps.”

Devine Eke added 12 points for Maine. Kevin Little and Ilija Stojiljkovic each scored 10, with Stojiljkovic making all four of his shots and adding a game-high nine rebounds.

Eke and Stojiljkovic, both freshmen, also had four turnovers apiece.

“We didn’t show any energy. We gave in and they just stepped over us,” Stojiljkovic said. “We let them run their sets. We didn’t run our offense as we were used to running it. It was their game the second half.”

Maine shot 51.8 percent from the field (29-of-56), but Walsh didn’t want to dwell on that.

“You shoot 52 percent and you’re down by 20 in the second half, we’ve got problems on the other side of the ball that we’ve got to address immediately,” he said.

MAINE FRESHMAN forward Issac Vann will be out at least another 7-10 days with a fractured ankle that has sidelined him since Nov. 25, Walsh said. He said there were no plans to redshirt him. … Walsh said freshman guard Walter King has left school and returned to his home in Peekskill, New York, because of a personal issue.