Talk about momentum swings.
A rare seven-point play switched the momentum in Maine’s favor midway through the second half and sparked the Black Bears to an 81-70 victory over the University at Albany Wednesday night at SEFU Arena.
Senior guard Mark Socoby took advantage of the key play and scored 18 of his game-high 20 points in the second half to help the Black Bears improve to 2-4 in America East Conference play and 6-14 overall.
Albany, which saw its two-game winning streak snapped, dropped its second straight home game. The Great Danes slipped to 4-3 in the league and 9-10 overall.
After Albany grabbed a 51-39 lead on a left-handed hook by Brian Connelly with 10:54 left, the pivotal play of the game unfolded.
Kaimondre Owes, a 6-4 transfer from Saint Peter’s, put up a jumper for Maine, and 6-11 sophomore center Brett Gifford tried to block the shot. There appeared to be contact on the play, but then Owes took Gifford to the floor with him and pushed Gifford’s head to the floor. Gifford got up angrily and tried to push Owes. The officials called Gifford for a technical foul.
After Owes made two free throws, Socoby shot the two technical fouls. Maine still had possession of the ball because of the technical, and Socoby drilled a three-pointer to complete the seven-point play and cut the Bears’ deficit to 51-46 with 10:11 left.
“It was a huge momentum swing,” said Maine head coach Ted Woodward. “I was blocked by a few Albany players, but all I saw was a good hard play. Both guys were just playing hard, and sometimes that kind of thing will happen.”
The Danes appeared to be shell-shocked after that. Socoby went on to score 13 of his team’s next 15 points, including all eight in an 8-0 run that gave the Bears a 54-52 lead with 8:21 left. Albany knotted the score on a Jerel Hastings tip-in, but the Bears went on another 8-0 run and never trailed the rest of the way.
“Yes, that was a huge momentum swing,” Albany head coach Will Brown said grudgingly. “All of a sudden, our lead goes from 12 to five, and then Socoby caught fire. But I thought we lost this game in the first half. We had no sense of urgency and no intensity. I feel badly for our fans. I wouldn’t come back to watch this.”
Albany allowed Maine to shoot 58.8 percent from the floor in the first half and 64.7 percent for the game, both season highs for opponents. That led to Albany’s first consecutive losses at home since January 2005.
“We’re riding a roller coaster right now,” said Brown. “We scout our opponents to a fault, and yet we let them beat us with the same play, time after time. This is a very disappointing loss. We had a lack of hunger. It was like there was a lack of importance in this game. The guys looked like they thought they would win just because we’re playing at home.”
Maine used the strong inside shooting of 6-foot-9 center Brian Andre to take a 35-30 halftime lead, but the Great Danes appeared to take control of the game with a 21-4 run to start the second half. That’s when Gifford and Owes got tangled up and created the seven-point play.
Besides its hot shooting from the floor, Maine also made 31 of 36 free throws, including 23 straight at one point.
Owes finished with 17 points, while Junior Bernal chipped in with 14. Socoby also grabbed a game-high eight rebounds.
For Albany, senior swingman
Brian Lillis scored 19 points, grabbed six rebounds, passed for five assists and made four steals. Connelly scored 15 points, and freshman guard Tim Ambrose netted 16.
“We had no communication tonight on defense,” said Albany tri-captain Jimmie Covington. “We didn’t play with any energy in this game. We knew they were on a little run after that seven-point play, and we knew we had to go on a run of our own, but it didn’t happen. It’s extremely disappointing.”
Brown said practice will be difficult this week.
“I hate to grind the players so hard, but I’ve got to grind them this week. They can’t pick and choose when they play [hard],” he said. “It’s a privilege to play Division I basketball, and it didn’t look like our players were playing like it was tonight.”
The Danes are idle until they play at the University of Maryland Baltimore County Wednesday night.
Socoby 5-8 6-6 20, Tchekane Bofia 2-3 0-0 4, Cook 1-1 2-2 4, Bernal 4-6 8-10 16, Owes 4-7 8-8 17, Barnies 1-1 2-2 4, McNally 2-3 2-4 7, Andre 3-5 2-2 8, Peay 0-0 1-2 1. Totals: 22-34 31-36 81.
Connelly 6-10 3-3 15, Wilson 1-7 2-2 4, Covington 1-2 2-2 4, Hastings 2-7 2-4 6, Lillis 7-16 4-5 19, Martin 0-1 0-0 0, Moores 0-0 0-0 0, Iati 0-5 0-0 0, Ambrose 6-9 2-2 16, Gifford 2-2 2-3 6, Turley 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 25-59 17-21 70.
Halftime: Maine 35-30. Three-point goals: Maine 6-9 (Socoby 4-6, Owes 1-2, McNally 1-1); Albany 3-13 (Wilson 0-4, Lillis 1-1, Martin 0-1, Iati 0-5, Ambrose 2-2). Rebounds: Maine 25 (Socoby 8), Albany 26 (Covington 7). Assists: Maine 11 (Bernal 4), Albany 11 (Lillis 5). Personal fouls: Maine 21, Albany 25. Fouled out: Wilson. Technical fouls: Gifford. Officials: John Hughes, Gary Tracy, John Gill. Attendance: 3,117.