FARMINGTON — There were turnovers galore and bodies being knocked around like tackling dummies, but in all that mayhem, the University of Maine at Farmington emerged with a 74-65 victory over New England College in a North Atlantic Conference men’s basketball game Friday night.
The Beavers used textbook passing and second-half tenacity to hand the Pilgrims their second loss in the NAC. Both teams wracked up a handful of turnovers, with 30 going to UMF and 27 to NEC.
“Huge win for us because we need wins to get into the playoffs,” UMF coach Dick Meader said. “Only one team has beaten (NEC) so far. That was a great win for us. We had to get a least one this weekend.
“We struggled in the second half. But we hung in there, but getting the ball over half court was a struggle. We put some pressure on them and got some layups at the end.”
In the first half, the Beavers went on a 9-0 run and ended up sprinting to a 41-22 halftime lead.
And just when it looked like UMF (6-11, 4-7 conference) was going to breeze through the second half, the Pilgrims (13-5, 9-2 conference) whittled away at Maine-Farmington’s double-digit lead.
The second half became a free-for-all, with Bill Ruby playing the role of UMF’s fall guy. He took the brunt of NEC’s hard drives to the basket. The sophomore forward threw in 17 points and threw in three 3-pointers despite becoming well acquainted with UMF’s floor.
“I thought Bill Ruby did a good job energizing us,” Meader said. “First time he came on and scored some points right off. He has been sick (flu) and really has struggled since Christmas.
“He really gave us some offense. He creates offensive fouls on the other team by rotating and taking the charge. He must have had three or four key ones in the second half. They (Pilgrims) are tough and they are quick.”
The Beavers’ guard Isaac Witham threw in the game-high 19 points He also went 6-for-7 from the free-throw line. Amir Moss scored 14 points and picked up five assists. Junior forward Milani Hicks was devastating on the boards, pulling off a double-double with 11 rebounds and 11 points.
NEC’s sophomore guard Izaiah Winston-Brooks deposited the team-high 18 points, hit three 3-pointers and went 5-for-7 from the free-throw line. Guard Ricky Leonard scored 12 points and teammate Kareem Octavien added 15.
“We lost to a better team tonight,” NEC coach Charlie Mason said. “We didn’t match the efforts of Maine-Farmington.
“I think Farmington is a very well-coach team and plays very hard, and again, they are very deserving of tonight’s win.”
UMF’s Amir Moss drives to the basket in a NAC game against New England College in Farmington on Friday.UMF’s Anthony Owens drives to the basket in a NAC game against New England College in Farmington on Friday.The University of Maine at Farmington’s Bill Ruby drives the basket as New England College’s Calvin Cheek watches in a men’s NAC basketball game in Farmington on Friday night.