DeLAND, Fla. — Tanna Ross’s 3-point attempt bounced off the rim at the buzzer Tuesday afternoon as Winthrop University held on for a 54-51 victory over the University of Maine in the first round of the Hatter Classic at Stetson University.
It was the eighth straight loss for coach Cindy Blodgett’s Black Bears (1-9), who face host Stetson in Tuesday’s 1 p.m. second-round contest.
The Hatters beat Youngstown State 79-67 on Monday. The tourney has a non-championship format.
“We played really, really hard,” Blodgett said. “I thought the effort was so much better and it’s something we really talked about, forgetting about what happened in the past and working on becoming the team that we can be.”
UMaine had trailed through much of the second half, but was able to keep the game close. However, four missed free throws in the late going helped prevent the Bears from gaining the upper hand.
“We missed four free throws inside of two minutes,” Blodgett said.
The Bears shot a solid 40 percent overall for the game, but was 5-for-20 (25 percent) from 3-point range. They also committed 24 turnovers, which led to 22 Winthrop points.
UMaine suffered through two extended scoring droughts that helped seal its fate. The first came during a span of seven-plus minutes late in the first half.
The Bears, who had opened the game by shooting 50 percent through the first 12 minutes, wound up going 1-for-10 from the field in the last eight minutes. The Eagles outscored UMaine 16-2 during the key stretch, building a 28-19 halftime advantage.
“That put a tremendous amount of pressure on our defense,” Blodgett said. “To hold them to 54 points is such a great defensive effort, but we’ve got to be a little more efficient on offense and try to control those (turnovers) better.”
Freshman guard Ashleigh Roberts paced the UMaine offense with a career-best 16 points. Sophomore Katelyn Vanderhoff turned in a well-rounded effort, playing all 40 minutes, with 11 points, a team-high seven rebounds, five assists, two steals and a blocked shot.
“(Roberts) was very aggressive going to the hole, put a lot of pressure on them,” Blodgett said. “And Vandy in the second half really kind of found her spots. Sometimes she is so unselfish, but she’s a very capable scorer.”
Senior Ross of Newburgh chipped in eight points and five rebounds.
The Bears were without two players because of injuries. Junior Samantha Wheeler missed her fifth consecutive contest because of post-concussion issues.
Also, redshirt freshman Rachele Burns of Gorham was held out for precautionary reasons. She reportedly suffered an injury to her left knee during Sunday’s practice in Florida.
The severity of the injury won’t be known until she has it evaluated by a doctor upon her return to Maine. It is not the same knee on which she has had three reconstructive surgeries in the last two years.
Dequesha McClanahan sparked Winthrop (3-6) with a game-high 17 points and contributed six rebounds, seven assists and two steals.
Ashley Cox tossed in 14 points, grabbed eight rebounds and added three assists and three steals.
The Eagles shot 39 percent from the floor and outrebounded UMaine 39-28. They committed 26 turnovers, which led to 26 points by the Bears.
UMaine mounted a surge early in the second half, posting nine unanswered points to tie the game 28-28 on a fast-break layup by Ross with 14:26 to play. However, Lacey Lyons connected on back-to-back 3-pointers, her only baskets of the game, to put Winthrop back in front.
The Bears tied it again, but the Eagles answered and kept the upper hand.