ORONO, Maine — Kelly Greenberg’s offensive philosophy is pretty simple. The coach tells her Boston University team to take what the defense gives it.
Tuesday night, what the University of Maine gave the Terriers was ample room to shoot from the perimeter. They took full advantage.
Boston University went 12-for-23 (52 percent) on its 3-point shots, knocking down nine of those in the first half while setting the tone for a 71-65 America East women’s basketball victory at Alfond Arena.
“Defensively, starting out the game, we weren’t talking,” said UMaine senior Amanda Tewksbury. “They have a lot of shooters on their team, obviously, so that really hurt us in the beginning. That really fuels our offense, too, so we had to climb back from that.”
The Terriers (5-8) led by as many as 13 points but wound up fending off repeated second-half challenges by the Black Bears (4-9) in the mutual conference opener.
“I love the effort. I love that they didn’t quit,” Blodgett said. “That’s not who we are. They’re consistently showing that they will battle and that’s really nice to have as we move forward.”
UMaine was never able to fully overcome its lackluster perimeter defense. BU utilized excellent spacing and crisp passing while picking apart the Bears’ 1-2-2 matchup zone during the first 24 minutes, then attacked the basket more aggressively in the second half once UMaine switched to man-to-man defense.
That helped the Terriers emerge with a 17-10 edge from the foul line in a contest marred by 40 fouls and a combined 45 free-throw attempts.
“We were a little surprised [Maine played zone], but we have a pretty good 3-point shooting team,” Greenberg said.
“If they’re open, they should take the 3, no matter what the shot clock is, and nine in the first half was nice.”
The Bears also were victims of their turnovers. They committed 13 of their 21 miscues in the first half and BU wound up scoring 23 points as a result of UMaine turnovers.
The hosts shot a season-high 50 percent from the field (26-for-52), but wound up 10-for-17 from the foul line, including five misses in the last 5:12 that might have enabled them to regain the lead.
“I look at free-throw attempts and they got 28. I see we got 17,” Blodgett said. “We’ve got to get to the line more than that.”
Sophomore Samantha Wheeler paced UMaine with 16 points and nine rebounds and senior point guard Kristin Baker of Bingham posted 12 points, eight assists, six rebounds and two steals. She committed eight turnovers.
Katia Bratishko, Corinne Wellington and Tewksbury added 10 points apiece for the Bears, who outrebounded the Terriers 41-35.
Chantell Alford led BU with a game-high 26 points (4-for-7 on 3-pointers) and seven steals. Aly Hinton (4-for-5 on 3s) provided 15 points and nine rebounds, and Alex Young added 12 points for the Terriers, who had only 12 turnovers.
UMaine returns to action Thursday night at defending AE champion Vermont.
Despite its long-range accuracy, BU led by only eight (38-30) at the break. The Terriers soon extended the advantage.
The Bears scored the first four points of the second half, but the visitors began a decisive 11-2 run with a Kerry Cashman free throw. Alford sandwiched a foul-line jumper off an inbounds play and a 3-pointer from the corner around a rebound basket by UMaine’s Wellington, then Young tallied five straight points with two driving hoops from the lane and a foul shot to put the Terriers on top 49-36 with 16:05 to play.
The Bears finally abandoned their matchup zone and clawed back into contention.
Wheeler scored four points during an 8-0 spurt that got UMaine within 53-49 with 11 minutes left, only to have Hinton bury two key 3-pointers during a 9-3 burst that put BU back up by 10 with 8:30 remaining.
The Bears continued to battle. Tewksbury scored four points as part of an 11-3 UMaine run that fired up the crowd. Jasmine Rush’s runner from the left side of the key cut BU’s lead to 65-63 with 1:25 to play.
However, UMaine’s inability to control a defensive rebound proved costly as Hinton hit a clutch 18-footer with 49.5 seconds left.
“Hinton comes up with the big two to put the lead at four, which was huge for us,” Greenberg said. “From that point on, I felt a lot better, could take a deep breath.”
Then, after Rush missed two foul shots, Alford made four free throws in the last 27 seconds to keep the Terriers on top.