June 24, 2018
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Fairfield upends UMaine

By Pete Warner

ORONO, Maine — Things weren’t working smoothly on the offensive end for the University of Maine women’s basketball team in the second half of Sunday afternoon’s game.

To make matters worse, the Black Bears were unable to play good enough defense to jumpstart their offense.

Fairfield University excelled on both counts, limiting UMaine to 21 percent second-half shooting and capitalizing on its defensive success with efficient offense while earning a 64-56 victory at Alfond Arena.

“The second half, I thought not only defensively did we have some lapses, I thought there were loose balls that we weren’t coming up with,” said UMaine coach Cindy Blodgett.

“I think our offensive execution was poor,” she added. “We got a lead and then I thought we took two or three just really bad shots when there were 17 or 18 seconds left on the shot clock. Those are times when you’ve got to execute your offense and we didn’t.”

Junior point guard Kristin Baker was the catalyst for UMaine (2-8), which lost its third straight game, with 12 points, nine assists, seven rebounds and three steals.

Tanna Ross of Newburgh netted 11 points, Brittany Boser tallied 10 points with five rebounds and Samantha Wheeler added nine points.

The Bears took much better care of the ball in the second half, with only five turnovers, but shot 5-for-24. Fairfield also held Bears top scorer Samantha Baranowski without a point.

“I feel like when we don’t play great defense, we let it affect our offense,” Baker said.

Post player Stephanie Geehan led Fairfield (5-5) with 12 points and 11 rebounds. Her efforts were key with leading scorer Baendu Lowenthal plagued by early foul trouble and backup center Tara Flaherty limited by an injury.

Desiree Pina finished with 11 points and Lauren Groom added 10, including eight in the final 5:16.

The Stags shot 54 percent from the floor after halftime.

Fairfield trailed by eight (36-28) early in the second half, but played well over the last 11½ minutes. The Stags used less 2-3 zone than in the first half, when the Bears got open looks from outside, and went instead with aggressive man-to-man.

“I thought our ball pressure on their perimeter players was much better in the second half,” said Fairfield coach Joe Frager.

“Around the 12- or 13-minute mark [of the second half], we started to really run our sets better and we started to get more high-percentage looks.”

Fairfield took the lead with a 13-3 second-half run. With UMaine leading 40-35, Pina scored on an offensive rebound and Lowenthal answered two Colleen Kilmurray foul shots with a baseline layup.

Pina then scored off a backdoor cut after a UMaine turnover and Shireyll Moore sank two free throws to give the Stags a 43-42 lead with 9:40 left.

“We stopped going hard after loose balls and we stopped giving 100 percent,” said UMaine junior Brittany Boser. “And when we let teams outwork us like that, they’re going to come back, they’re going to take the lead.”

Boser countered with a foul shot, but Pina buried a 3-pointer off an inside-out pass from Lowenthal, who then made a turnaround from the foul line to give Fairfield a five-point advantage with 7:10 left.

UMaine later got back within two at 50-48, but the Stags tallied eight unanswered points to push the lead back to 10.

“We’re certainly working hard enough to win games, we’re just not working smart enough at this point,” Blodgett said.

The Bears led 32-26 at halftime, overcoming 15 turnovers by playing hard-nosed defense. They mixed up their defenses, including man-to-man and 2-3 zone, and benefited from their 2-2-1 full-court pressure.

UMaine finally was able to exploit the Stags’ 2-3 zone defense late in the half. Three-pointers by Ross, Baker and Wheeler keyed a 13-2 surge that turned a five-point deficit into the six-point halftime lead.

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