BANGOR, Maine — Husson University didn’t settle for a lot of perimeter shots Friday night.
Instead, the Eagles’ aggressive, attack-the-basket philosophy paid big dividends.
Husson’s approach produced numerous trips to the foul line and the hosts made 26 free throws on their way to a 71-61 North Atlantic Conference women’s basketball victory over Maine Maritime Academy at Newman Gym.
“That’s kind of a tribute to our inside play and being able to go to the hoop,” said coach Kissy Walker, whose Eagles (5-8 overall, 2-0 NAC) went 26-for-35 (71 percent) from the foul line while producing a 16-point differential against the Mariners of Castine.
MMA (6-6, 1-1 NAC) converted 10 of its 20 free throws.
“We knew going into it [that] it was going to be a little bit of a chaotic game,” Walker said. “We talked about that and how we have to be poised. There were times when we were and times when we weren’t.”
Senior forward Shelby Bradford of Lee was a tireless worker inside for Husson. She scored a game-high 21 points, pulled down 17 rebounds, handed out six assists, made three steals and blocked two shots in a well-rounded effort.
Amanda Gifford of Lee contributed 13 points (8-for-10 from the foul line) and eight rebounds and Bree Hanscom of Mattawamkeag finished with 13 points and seven rebounds for the Eagles. Bethany Sevey of Skowhegan chipped in with eight points and five rebounds.
Amethyst Cousins of Bass Harbor paced MMA with 14 points, six rebounds and five steals. Sam Goda of Eliot had a double-double with 14 points and 11 boards, and Maggie Smith of Bath netted 11 points.
Husson, the preseason pick to win the NAC title this season, used a dominating first-half scoring run to build a sizeable (41-26) halftime advantage.
Buoyed by a switch from full-court zone pressure and man-to-man defense to a 2-3 zone, the hosts outscored the Mariners 14-1 during the last 7:03 of the half. MMA, which seemed to enjoy the pace of the game when Husson was pressing and playing man-to-man, watched the Eagles grab the momentum.
“They’re definitely a running team and when we were pressing, it definitely played into their strengths,” Bradford said. “When we set back into a zone they had to set up and that’s not really their strength and you could tell tonight that they wanted to run and drive.”
Hanscom scored all 13 of her points before halftime while Bradford tallied 11 and Gifford nine to pace Husson.
“We created an uptempo style of basketball in the first 10 minutes and things were going good, but when they slowed the pace down, we slowed down,” said MMA coach Craig Dagan. “But, in turn, their defense translated into fast-break points for them at the other end so we kind of go beat at our own game.”
The Mariners figured out a few things at halftime. They stormed out of the locker room with a 12-0 surge during the first 4:33 of the half, most of it against the same 2-3 zone.
Two Cousins free throws capped the run and cut Husson’s edge to 41-38 with 15:27 left.
The Eagles reverted to man-to-man defense and MMA quickly committed six turnovers during a span of three minutes that helped fuel an 8-0 Husson run that pushed the lead back to 11 at 49-38.
Led by Goda, the Mariners continued to battle. MMA, which shot 42 percent in the second half, eventually put together a 15-4 spurt and trimmed the deficit to 65-62 on a driving layup by Cousins with 3:04 left.
“They showed a lot of character,” Dagan said of his team. “Quite frankly, that’s a game last year that we would have been absolutely blown out in the second half.”
However, Bradford helped Husson ice it. She made a foul shot, then shortly thereafter came up with a conventional three-point play off an offensive rebound that made it a seven-point contest (69-62) with 1:25 remaining.
Both teams were plagued by turnovers. Husson committed 24 and MMA had 18.
Husson outrebounded MMA 47-38.