ORONO, Maine — The University of Maine women’s basketball team passed a critical test Wednesday night.
The Black Bears struggled while watching a 19-point advantage dwindle, but recovered down the stretch and held on for a gritty 54-52 victory over Robert Morris at Alfond Arena.
Tanna Ross of Newburgh scored 10 of her team-high 14 points in the second half to help coach Cindy Blodgett’s team survive a determined charge by the Colonials.
Brittany Boser came off the bench to score 12 points and grab seven rebounds, while Samantha Baranowski added 10 points for UMaine, which improves to 2-4..
Monet Johnson powered Robert Morris (2-4) with 18 points and eight rebounds. Angela Pace contributed 12 points and seven rebounds.
Robert Morris came out in the second half with much more intensity and played with a sense of urgency. The Colonials pressed full-court, which resulted in a few early turnovers and some transition baskets that got them back into the contest.
Pace got into a run-and-gun pace which the Bears did not handle effectively, rattling off a 26-8 surge that reduced a 19-point deficit to one point (47-46) with 5:03 to play.
A Kristin Baker foul shot ended a scoreless skein of nearly five minutes to get the UMaine lead back to two.
UMaine built a 17-point (31-14) halftime lead behind its tenacious defense and good execution at the offensive end.
The Bears’ combination of 1-2-2 and 2-3 zones stymied the Colonials, who shot a dismal 19.4 percent (6-for-31) from the field. That included 0-for-9 shooting from beyond the 3-point arc.
The hosts also outrebounded Robert Morris 22-18.
Balance was the story on offense as Baranowski tallied eight points among eight different players who got into the scoring column. UMaine kept its turnovers in check (nine) and was able to work the ball to open shooters.
The Bears went 11-for-21 (52.4 percent) from the floor and also outscored the Colonials 9-2 from the foul line.
UMaine slowly manufactured its advantage during a 7½-minute span of the first half. The Bears outscored a cold-shooting RMU squad 16-0 while moving out to a 20-4 lead with 8:27 left in the half.
Baranowski and Samantha Wheeler scored four points each during the sustained run, which ended when Monet Johnson’s 14-foot jumper halted a scoreless drought of 8:10 for the visitors.
The Bears led by as many as 19 points (29-10) in the half.
U-New England 81, St. Joe’s 65
At Biddeford, Kelley Paradis led four players in double figures with 21 points as the University of New England pulled away for the win.
Sara Pelkey netted 18 points for the Nor’Easters while Margo Russell scored 12 and grabbed nine rebounds. Carrie Bunnell had 11 points.
Meghan Daigle paced St. Joseph’s of Standish with 20 points and Carolyn Freeman scored 11.
St. Joseph’s (4-2) 65
Ludwig 2-0-4, Miner 0-1-1, Cartwright 0-2-2, Freeman 4-2-11, Daigle 7-5-20, Drake 0-4-4, Boston 2-0-4, McDevitt 3-0-7, Nowell, Geel 3-1-9, Fournier 1-0-3, Gagnon, Enright
U-New England (4-3) 81
Bunnell 3-5-11, Mroz 1-0-2, Gamache 1-0-2, Russell 4-2-12, Pelkey 7-4-18, Pelletier, Paradis 9-0-21, Durgin 1-0-2, Meszaros 3-0-7, Gilbert, Laferriere 2-2-6, Libby
3-pt. goals: Geel 2, Fournier, Freeman, Daigle, McDevitt; Russell 2, Paradis 3, Meszaros
Halftime: U-New England 36-27