The USM men’s basketball team used two runs of 8-0 and 10-1 respectively in the second half to erase an eight point first half deficit and defeat the University of Massachusetts Boston (UMB) Beacons in a Little East Conference match on Tuesday in Gorham.
The Beacons took advantage of a flat-footed USM in the opening stages of the first half. Freshman Alberto Paniagua (Lawrence, MA) converted two fast breaks in a row for UMB, and sophomore Tony Barros (Dorchester, MA) sunk three straight three-pointers to put the Beacons in control 25-17 with just over eight minutes remaining in the half.
“We were playing a zone offense, but we weren’t penetrating their gaps out on the perimeter,” said USM Head Coach Karl Henrikson of his team in the first half.
USM finally woke up as senior Jason Levecque (Westbrook, ME) converted a pair of fast breaks of his own; the second on a nifty steal as UMB attempted to penetrate the perimeter. A three-point play by Jesse McKinnell (Manomet, MA) capped an offensive surge by the Huskies that put them right back in the game. The Huskies trailed by one at the end of the first half, 44-43.
“We knew they wanted to play a quick transition game, and we knew they wanted to shoot a lot of three’s,” said Henrikson. “We had to tighten up the defense in the second, and we did.”
USM held the Beacons to just 24 points in the second half on 8-24 shooting from the floor. Senior guard Mike Francoeur (Somersworth, NH) opened second half scoring for the Huskies with a three-pointer and McKinnell hit a key lay-up to put the Huskies on top for good, 50-48. The Huskies then went on their first run with about 16 minutes to play to expand their lead to ten points. Levecque scored five of those eight points with a three and a 15-foot jumper.
The Huskies went on another spurt as UMB experienced a number of defensive lapses. Junior Bill Hardwick (Boothbay, ME) had a four-point effort in this outburst. The Huskies were ahead by a score of 80-61 after a Beacon timeout with 6:21 remaining in the game.
USM flexed their defensive muscles in the second as they limited UMB to just 16 points from the floor. They outscored the Beacons 50-24 in the second half as they cruised to a 93-68 finale.
“Offense is always going to be up and down, but in order to win consistently, your defense must play well consistently,” said Henrikson, “and these guys have really put it together defensively.”
The Huskies shot 19 for 32 (59.4 percent) from the field as their opponents shot a dismal 39.1 percent on 25 for 64 shooting.
Levecque and Barros led all scorers with 21 points apiece, Barros’ coming on 7 of 9 shooting from beyond the arc. Four others had double figures for the Huskies including McKinnell with 15 and Francoeur adding 13. Paniagua threw down 12 points for the Beacons while adding 13 rebounds for game-high honors.
USM improved to 7-9 on the season and 3-3 in Little East Conference play as UMB dropped to 5-10 overall and 2-4 in conference play.