FARMINGTON — When he wasn’t altering shots and disrupting plays, Ben Johnson was pulling down rebounds at both ends of the gym. When he wasn’t rebounding, Johnson was asserting himself in the paint, knocking down one easy shot after another. And when he wasn’t converting layups, Johnson was throwing down a dunk that excited the crowd Saturday at Dearborn Gymnasium.

Johnson scored 20 points and grabbed 13 rebounds — both game-highs — to lead the University of Maine at Farmington men’s basketball team past Lyndon State 86-65 in a North Atlantic Conference game Saturday afternoon.

“Our plan was to go inside-out,” UMF coach Dick Meader said. “We did that early and did a good job getting it inside. Ben is really starting to put it together. He did a nice job. He runs the floor so well and he really forces defenses to get back.”

The Beavers, which used a 14-3 run late in the second half to put the Hornets away, improved to 6-4 overall and 6-0 in NAC play. Lyndon State dropped to 0-11, 0-5.

“We’re still trying to find our team,” Lyndon St. coach Joe Krupinski said. “I think we’ll be better down the road. We just weren’t ready to play on the road against the best team in the conference.”

Nate Carson scored 19 points, including six in that late run, and added six assists. Pet Sumner scored 16 points and Manchester native Kevin Leary added 10 for UMF.

But it was the inside game of Johnson, a former Maranacook Community High School standout, that was the difference.

“We came out and we did some good things in the post,” said Johnson, who played 26 minutes. “It opened things up for our shooters and it opened up some drives. I had some pretty good post-ups, but I still did some dumb stuff out there. I had too many turnovers (three) and fouls (four).”

Still, at 6-0 in league play the young Beavers are in excellent shape.

“It feels pretty good,” said guard Dan Kane, one of just five UMF seniors who led the team with seven assists. “We want to keep it going. This is the best start in league play since I’ve been here.”

UMF led 44-32 at the half and opened the second half on a 14-7 run to surge ahead 58-39.

The Hornets answered with a 15-3 run of their own and closed within 60-54 midway through the half. Asa Smith scored six of his team-high 13 points in the spurt.

“It was nerve-racking,” Johnson said. “Any other year I would’ve been nervous, but we are a good come-from-behind team. We have something special going, and we just had to regroup.”

The Beavers did, using a 21-8 run to pull away for good.

“Carson made some key shots in that run,” Meader. “We did well to respond and extend the lead in the second half. We got it back in hand.”

Added Kane: “We just weren’t hustling back on defense and we weren’t doing anything on offense. We had to regroup on defense and we figured out what we had to do.”

Jason Gray scored 13 points and Devyn Baranauskas added 10 for the Hornets, who shot just 31.9 percent from the floor (22 for 69).

The Hornets hung around for much of the first half, thanks to a barrage of 3-pointers, and never trailed by more than six points in the opening 10 minutes

But that’s when Johnson and the Beavers got going, using a 12-5 run to push their lead to 35-23.

Johnson scored four points in the run, including a two-handed dunk off an offensive rebound with 5:20 left in the half. Leary scored five points in the stretch, including a deep 3-pointer and a nice runner in the lane.

“We’re growing,” Meader said. “We’re young and we can be immature at times, but we’re learning.”

Bill Stewart — 621-5640

[email protected]


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