BANGOR, Maine – Jordon Bronner (Sleepy Hollow, N.Y.) matched a career high with 24 points, but the University of Maine erased a 12-point second-half deficit to register a 73-69 victory over the University of New Hampshire in Sunday afternoon's America East men's basketball regular-season finale at Cross Insurance Center.
With the loss UNH falls to 6-23 overall and 4-12 in league action and will be seeded-eighth in the America East Conference Tournament. Maine, which snaps a six-game skid, improves to 6-22 overall and 4-12 in AE play and will take the seventh-seed into next week's conference tournament.
Till Gloger scored 15 points and grabbed 14 rebounds to lead five players in double-figures for Maine. Troy Reid-Knight (15 points), Marko Pirovic (13 points), Shaun Lawton (12 points), and Xavier Pollard (10 points) also hit double-digits for the Black Bears.
Bronner scored 18 of his 24 points in the first half and added three rebounds, four assists, and one steal. Senior Chris Pelcher (Albany, N.Y.) and Jaleen Smith (Freeport, Texas) pitched in with 12 points apiece and junior Tommy McDonnell (Durham, N.H.) added eight points and 12 rebounds, both career-highs.
The Wildcats got off to a hot start, opening the game on an 11-0 run. McDonnel started the scoring when he took a feed from Frank Okeke (DeSoto, Texas) and scored a layup. Bronner followed with a layup of his own before Pelcher dunked home a feed from Okeke. Smith added a 3-pointer from the left shoulder before Pelcher closed the run with a jumper from eight feet out to put UNH ahead 11-0.
Trailing 13-2 with 14:22 left in the first half, the Black Bears used a 6-2 run to cut the Wildcats' lead to 15-8. After the teams traded baskets over the next three minutes, Maine would use another run, this time a 6-0 run, to cut UNH's lead to one point, 27-26.
Maine kept it close for the next five minutes as UNH held a 34-33 lead with 4:26 remaining in the half. From there, UNH closed out the half on an 11-2 run. McDonnell again started the run for the Wildcats when he converted a pair of free throws and Bronner and Dion followed with back-to-back 3-balls. After two points from Maine, Bronner hit a half-court shot at the buzzer to give UNH a 45-35 halftime lead.
Bronner led UNH with 18 points on 6 of 11 shooting in the opening frame as the Wildcats shot 48.4% (15 of 31) overall.
Reid-Knight paced Maine in the first period with 12 points, including 7 of 8 from the free-throw line, as the Black Bears were held to just 30.8% (8 of 26) in the half.
The Wildcats held firm over the first two minutes of the second half, leading 49-37 with 17:50 to go in the game. Maine fought back though, using a 7-1 run to chip away at UNH's lead and cut the score to 50-44 with 14:49 remaining.
Still trailing by six with 12:02 to go, the Black Bears scored five-straight points to get within one, 57-56.
UNH pushed back, extending the lead back out to four, 61-57, thanks to a Smith 3-pointer and a McDonnell free throw.
After Maine knotted the score at 61-61, Bronner regained the advantage for UNH with his fifth 3 of the game to make it 64-61 with 5:55 to go.
From there, the Black Bears launched a 7-1 run to go up 68-65 with 2:49 to go.
UNH fought back to within two points with 1:09 left, but Maine held on to take the 73-69 victory.
UNH shot 33.3% (7-for-21) in the second half and finished 42.3% (22-for-52) for the game, but were hampered by 18 turnovers and 55.2% (16-for-29) shooting from the charity stripe.
The eighth-seeded Wildcats will square off with regular-season champion and No. 1 seed Vermont in an America East quarterfinal-round game Saturday, March 8, at 12 p.m., at the University at Albany's SEFCU Arena. For tickets visit www.americaeast.com.