ORONO, Maine — This time around, the University of Maine made the plays when it had to.
Samantha Wheeler went 6-for-6 from the foul line in the last 3½ minutes and the Black Bears hit seven of their last eight from the line to hold on for a 55-51 America East women’s basketball victory over Binghamton at Alfond Arena.
Coach Cindy Blodgett’s Bears (6-13, 2-5 AE) snapped a two-game losing streak while eclipsing its victory total from last season with the victory.
Wheeler paced UMaine with 16 points and 11 rebounds, while Kristin Baker of Bingham contributed 10 points, six rebounds and six assists. Katelyn Vanderhoff posted nine points and 12 rebounds and Amanda Tewksbury added eight points and nine boards.
Erica Carter hit six 3-pointers on her way to a game-high 20 points to lead Binghamton (6-13, 2-4 AE). Andrea Holmes chipped in with 15 points and Viive Rebane added 10 points and seven rebounds.
Binghamton stormed out of the locker room in the second half and got right back in the game after trailing by 10. Two Ward 3-pointers during an 8-0 spurt got the Bearcats to within 34-30 with 15:05 left.
The Bears finally got settled defensively and later responded with an 8-0 run to regain a 10-point edge at 44-34 with 8:19 remaining.
Binghamton responded, taking advantage of a handful of UMaine turnovers to put together a 10-0 flurry that cut the Bears’ lead to 44-43 with 3:56 to play.
Again, the teams traded runs. Four Wheeler foul shots put UMaine up by five, but Holmes hit a 3 and converted a three-point play to get the Bearcats within a point at 50-49 with 1:04 left.
The Black Bears put together a superb stretch of basketball late in the first half to manufacture a 10-point halftime lead.
UMaine’s gritty man-to-man defense held the Bearcats without a field goal for a stretch of nearly 7½ minutes and the hosts responded with some offensive production at the other end of the floor.
The Bears rattled off 14 unanswered points during a span of 5:33, turning a 17-15 deficit into a 29-17 lead with 1:42 left in the half.
Samantha Baranowski and Katelyn Vanderhoff were among the catalysts during the surge, when UMaine was able to find the seams in Binghamton’s 2-3 zone.
The Bears also showed off tremendous effort in the rebounding action, with Vanderhoff and Wheeler grabbing a couple of offensive boards each. UMaine outrebounded Binghamton 26-17 in the half.
The hosts also kept a lid on their turnovers, committing seven. The Bearcats, who had eight of their own, managed only three points as the result of UMaine miscues.
Amanda Tewksbury opened the decisive run with an 18-footer at the 7:15 mark, then Kristin Baker fed Baranowski underneath for a three-point play that put UMaine on top 20-17.
Baranowski followed with an eight-foot turnaround shot, Tewksbury canned a 10-footer and then Tewksbury passed to Wheeler for an open hoop down low to make it 26-17 with 3:48 to play.
A Vanderhoff 3-pointer eventually extended the advantage, but the Bears were unable to build on that despite a couple of high-percentage chances in the final 76 seconds.
Vanderhoff had seven rebounds and Wheeler grabbed five in the half.
BEAR TRACKS: UMaine received more bad news on the injury front Thursday. Sophomore guard Jasmine Rush has been lost for the season with an injury to her right knee. She hurt the knee during pregame warmups prior to the Jan. 16 Stony Brook game. She joins freshmen Rachele Burns of Gorham (knee) and Shareka Maner (shoulder) as Black Bears who are out for the season.