ORONO — To win tight games, a team must execute down the stretch.
Sunday afternoon, the University of Maine made just enough clutch plays to get the job done.
Senior Tanna Ross of Newburgh banked in a 3-pointer with four-tenths of a second left, lifting Black Bears to a 60-57 America East women’s basketball victory over Maryland Baltimore County at Alfond Arena.
“They were poised and they weren’t looking around, frantic,” said UMaine coach Cindy Blodgett. “They were calm, they were poised and that’s another step for us.”
The Bears (3-12, 1-2 AE), coming off blowout road losses at Boston University and Hartford, responded with a strong performance.
“It’s nice that not only do you win in your building, but that the team gains confidence from being in this building,” Blodgett said.
UMaine called timeout with 15.3 seconds remaining, five seconds after after UMBC’s Michelle Kurowski buried a 3-pointer to tie it.
Ross, UMaine’s only senior, was forced to take the last shot after UMBC (7-8, 1-1 AE) took away the Bears’ preferred option. She shook her defender and got off a clean shot.
“We actually were trying to get a post entry, but I was guarded pretty tightly and so was (Katelyn) Vanderhoff,” said Ross, who finished with 11 points and eight rebounds, “so, like coach said, luckily we had good spacing so I could get a shot off. (I had to) get myself open a little bit.”
Vanderhoff preserved the win, tipping away the inbounds pass on the Retrievers’ final possession.
The Bears demonstrated confidence and resilience in a contest that featured seven ties and 13 lead changes.
UMBC had fought back from seven points down at 50-43, with Kurowski’s basket from underneath off a loose-ball rebound getting the Retrievers within 55-54 with 59.1 seconds to play.
Redshirt freshman Amber Smith (10 points) provided the response after a UMaine timeout when she canned a 17-foot jumper with 30.2 seconds left and the shot clock down to two seconds.
“There’s not many players on are team that can do that and what people don’t see is how high she elevates on her shot,” Blodgett said.
Kurowski answered with her 3-pointer, but Ross and the Bears pulled it out.
UMaine placed five players in double figures, led by freshman guard Ashleigh Roberts. She tallied 14 points, her seventh straight double-figure effort, a career-high 12 rebounds, three assists and four steals.
It was a coming-out party of sorts for classmate Ali Nalivaika. The 6-foot-4 center scored 11 points, grabbed seven rebounds and blocked five shots, logging a career-high 35 minutes.
Nalivaika’s presence in the paint posed difficulties for UMBC at both ends. That included foul trouble to Tope Obajolu (seven points, five rebounds, three blocks), who at 6-3 was the Retrievers’ only post threat.
“I thought Ali, coming off the bench, she was huge — no pun intended,” Blodgett said with a chuckle.
“She has tremendous timing,” she said of the shot-blocking performance.
Heady sophomore guard Vanderhoff contributed 12 points, seven rebounds, eight assists and four steals.
“We have to have that kind of performance on a regular basis,” Blodgett said.
Erin Brown’s game-best 16 points paced UMBC, which shot 31.5 percent (23-for-73), including 6-for-29 (21 percent) on 3-pointers.
Michelle Kurowski posted 14 points and 12 rebounds and Meghan Colabella added 10 points and eight boards for the Retrievers.
“We didn’t play well (today). We shot too many threes,” said UMBC coach Phil Stern.
“If we shoot 31 percent, we’re going to lose a lot of games,” he added.
The Bears outrebounded the Retrievers 47-45, but the visitors grabbed 19 offensive rebounds and scored 28 second-chance points — those coming after an offensive rebound on the same possession.
With the score 39-39, UMaine gained the upper hand with an 8-2 second-half scoring run. Roberts opened the surge with an up-and-under move after a steal and feed by Vanderhoff. A free throw by Nalivaika and two by Vanderhoff kept the rally going.
After two missed foul shots by UMBC’s Kristin Coles, Brown hit a 16-footer off an inbounds pass. However, Vanderhoff’s 3-pointer 32 seconds later put the Bears on top 50-43 with 7:15 left.
UMaine junior Samantha Wheeler missed her 10th straight game with postconcussion symptoms.
UMaine returns to action Wednesday with a 7:30 p.m. game against Albany at Alfond Arena.