GORHAM, Maine -- Junior center Jason Blackburn (Hudson, Mass.) poured in 30 points, grabbed 21 rebounds and blocked three shots to lead the Plymouth State College Panthers to a hard-fought, 57-53 victory over the University of Southern Maine Huskies in a Little East Conference men's basketball game Tuesday night at the Warren G. Hill Gymnasium.
The victory snapped a three-game losing skid for the Panthers, who moved back to .500 for the season at 8-8 overall and 3-3 in the conference. Southern Maine dropped its 10th straight game to fall to 4-13 overall. The Huskies are winless in the conference at 0-8.
The 6-foot-5 Blackburn was virtually unstoppable inside, scoring on a variety of shots, including a three-pointer in the first half. At one point in the second half, he was the only PSC player to score, tallying 10 straight points. He combined with senior forward Tony Martinez (Barnstead, N.H.) to score 46 of the Panthers' 57 points.
Trailing 50-46 after basket by USM senior Corey Zimmerman (Cape Elizabeth, Maine) with 5:40 to play, the Panthers went on a 10-0 run over the next four minutes to regain the lead for good. Martinez put PSC ahead with 3:31 left, and Blackburn followed 46 seconds later with another basket to give the visitors a four-point lead (54-50). USM got no closer than three points the rest of the game.
In the opening half, Blackburn poured in 17, and Martinez nine, of the Panthers' 32 points. Blackburn scored the first seven points of the game for PSC, including a three-point shot. PSC led by as many as 11 (20-9), but the Huskies stayed close with some balanced scoring despite cold shooting (7-for-29), 24 percent). The Panthers took a 32-25 lead to the locker room.
USM mounted a methodical second half push behind the scoring of Zimmerman and senior Wade Millett (East Waterboro, Maine). As PSC went cold after a Blackburn basket (42-39) with 9:29 to go, Millett hit a three-pointer, Zimmerman sank two free throws and followed with a three-point shot to give USM a five point lead (47-42) with 7:28 to play.
Martinez grabbed seven rebounds to go along with his 16 points. Zimmerman led the Huskies attack with 17 points and five assists. Junior Jason St. Pierre (Bangor, Maine) ended up in double figures with 12 points.
Plymouth State shot 36 percent (22-for-62) from the field in the game and committed 25 turnovers. Southern Maine shot a stone-cold 28 percent (17-for-61) on the night. The Panthers held a big margin on the boards, 53-33.
Southern Maine will try to break its losing streak this Saturday when the Huskies travel to the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth for a 3:00 p.m. game. Plymouth State will host conference rival Western Connecticut State University, also on Saturday at 3:00 p.m.