DURHAM, N.H. — The University of Maine shook off a lackluster first half with an outstanding second-half performance Tuesday night en route to earning a 65-61 America East women’s basketball victory over New Hampshire at Lundholm Gymnasium.
Coach Cindy Blodgett’s Black Bears (5-11, 1-3 AE) rode gritty defense and an aggressive offensive approach to the win. UMaine went 25-for-35 from the foul line to earn a 17-point advantage on free throws.
Freshman center Corinne Wellington paced the Bears with 18 points, while senior Amanda Tewksbury contributed 16 points and Samantha Wheeler 10 points and eight rebounds and Kristin Baker 10 points and five assists.
Amy Simpson led the Wildcats (5-11, 1-3 AE) with a game-high 21 points. Denise Beliveau posted 13 points and 11 rebounds and Candace Williams added 12 points.
The Bears asserted themselves early in the second half. Amanda Tewksbury scored five points to help ignite a 13-0 flurry that lasted 3:07 and got UMaine within two points at 38-36 with 16:19 to play.
However, Jill McDonald scored from down low on the next possession to help UNH maintain the lead.
The Bears’ tighter man-to-man defense, excellent rebounding and attacking offensive philosophy helped them continue to seize the momentum. Two Jasmine Rush foul shots with 10:53 left gave UMaine its first lead since 4-0 and the run was extended to 8-0 as the Bears eventually went ahead 50-46 on a low-post move by Wel-lington with 7:47 remaining.
The Bears extended the advantage to as many as six points (58-52), but a clutch 3-pointer by Beliveau at the 3:38 mark kept UNH right in the thick of things. It went down to the wire, but UMaine made five of its last six from the foul line to hold on.
The Wildcats capitalized on the Bears’ turnover woes to manufacture a 35-23 halftime lead.
UMaine committed 14 turnovers in the half, which led directly to 18 UNH points. And, although the hosts turned the ball over 10 times themselves, the Bears could muster only 10 points off them.
UNH mixed up its man-to-man and 2-3 zone defenses while frustrating UMaine into a 9-for-27 shooting effort. The Bears were able to isolate Wellington, who went 5-for-8 from the floor and provided 10 first-half points.
However, the rest of the team went 4-for-19 from the field. Leading scorers Kristin Baker and Samantha Wheeler combined for only two points, a pair of Baker free throws.
The Bears played man-to-man defense almost exclusively, but couldn’t contain the Wildcats. Simpson got loose most often, going 7-for-9 from the floor on her way to 18 points in the half.
Simpson hit two 3-pointers, but also connected on a handful of nifty jumpers from the foul-line area. She also blocked a couple of shots and got her hand on passes two or three other times to help disrupt the Bears’ offensive efforts.
Williams had a quiet eight points for UNH, which shot 54 percent (14-for-26), including 4-for-8 from 3-point range.
UMaine grabbed a 21-16 rebounding edge.