BOSTON — The University of Maine women’s basketball team hasn’t been able to play with the consistency needed to win regularly in America East.
Saturday afternoon, UMaine struggled early against Boston University, responded with a strong second-half effort, but came up on the short end of a 56-49 decision at Case Gym.
Rookie of the Year frontrunner Chantell Alford made a handful of momentum-preserving plays late in the second half as the Terriers turned away challenges by coach Cindy Blodgett’s Bears.
“I comfortably believe, and it’s a credit to the team, we’re at that point now where we have to expect to win,” Blodgett said. “We have to believe that we can win, because we can.”
It didn’t come to fruition against BU.
UMaine (7-14 overall, 3-6 AE) played better after intermission, but could not overcome the sluggish defense and 12 turnovers that helped BU (11-10, 7-2 AE) build a 33-23 halftime lead.
The Bears twice cut the deficit to two points (43-41, 45-43) in the second half, but were unable to execute well enough to seize the momentum.
Instead, it was the Terriers who made the plays.
“It’s frustrating and it makes us mad because we should have had this game,” said UMaine senior Katia Bratishko. “It makes us more hungry for the next win.”
Freshman guard Katelyn Vanderhoff (12 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 steals) provided a spark. She converted a three-point play and made two free throws and Kristin Baker of Bingham hit two foul shots to get UMaine within 43-41 with 9:34 remaining.
However, after a Samantha Wheeler blocked shot, the Bears missed their next shot, then followed a BU turnover with another miss.
Alford made it hurt, picking off a Vanderhoff pass and driving down for a layup that pushed the lead to four with 8:06 to play.
UMaine again crept within two points on Bratishko’s inside bucket off an Amanda Tewksbury assist, but BU quickly beat the Bears down the floor after inbounding the ball and Aly Hinton made a layup.
The Terriers had some success in transition and also caught the Bears napping after some made baskets.
“Today we looked very effective doing that: Outlet to a guard, the guard for a sideline pass, another guard for a layup,” said BU coach Kelly Greenberg. “You don’t have to worry about what the other team’s running defensively or get in any kind of offense as much, just get a layup, and today, thankfully, it was there for us.”
Alex Young’s layup off a Bratishko turnover and another steal and layup by Alford pushed BU’s lead to eight (51-43) at the 6:07 mark. UMaine never got closer than four after that.
“Second half, we had a difficult time scoring, but we did a much better job with stops,” Blodgett said. “We allowed them 23 points and that’s us [a team that has to play great defense].”
Bratishko scored 10 points, Samantha Baranowski posted nine points and six rebounds and Baker added nine points and four rebounds.
Young sparked Boston University with a game-high 20 points and Alford posted 18 points, six rebounds, six steals and three assists.
UMaine outrebounded BU 37-34, but shot only 33 percent from the floor, including 1-for-13 from 3-point range. The Terriers went 4-for-19 on 3-pointers after hitting 12 in the Jan. 5 meeting in Orono.
The Terriers led 33-23 at the break thanks to cohesive defense and their transition offense.
BU built its lead with an 8-0 surge late in the first half. Caroline Stewart opened the run with an offensive rebound basket off a UMaine turnover, then Alford hit a layup off a long pass.
Hinton sank two free throws and Stewart followed a minute later with a short turnaround shot that gave the Terriers a 30-17 lead with 2:25 to play.
“It’s frustrating because I don’t feel like, with the exception of the UMass game, we’ve actually played an entire 40 minutes,” Blodgett said.
The Bears got back into contention, opening the second half with a 6-0 run. But the Terriers had an answer for that challenge, and the others that followed.
“I think coach just challenged us to step up on our defense and we just came out with a lot of energy,” Vanderhoff said. “We committed 12 turnovers in the first half and we really wanted to come out the second half and limit those.”
UMaine returns to action Wednesday with a 7:30 p.m. home game against Vermont.