BANGOR — Playing in the powerhouse New England Small College Athletic Conference, the Colby Mules aren’t easily fazed by a little adversity.
So when they found themselves trailing Husson University by seven points in the first half Tuesday night, the Mules remained focused.
Colby College of Waterville rattled off 15 unanswered points during the last seven minutes of the half to regain the momentum on its way to a 76-56 women’s basketball victory at Newman Gym.
Coach Christine Clancy’s Mules (10-2) prevailed in a rematch of last year’s NCAA Division III tournament first-round game in Waterville. Colby won 62-59.
Husson (2-9) dictated the pace early, disrupting Colby with its combination of half-court zone defenses and a 2-2-1 press.
“The problem in the beginning of the half was we were just letting them set up their press,” Clancy said. “We were having trouble breaking that and it was a really slow game. Once we picked it up a little bit and made them have to defend us in transition, we started getting some easy looks.”
Marissa Albert of Fort Kent threw in a runner from the lane to give Husson a 23-16 edge with 9:10 left in the half, but it was all downhill from there.
“I think the kids were happy to be home,” Walker said. “They came out ready to play, they were focused. Then we went in that dry spell and we got unfocused.”
Once the shots stopped falling regularly for the Eagles — and Colby started negotiating the press better — the Mules were able to pick up the pace behind solid man-to-man defense and an aggressive transition attack.
“One of our goals was to really push the ball and try to get out in front of them before they could organize on defense and I think that worked pretty well for us,” said former Lee Academy star Aarika Ritchie, who provided 11 points and five assists.
Colby rattled off 15 unanswered points during a span of 5:46 to turn a 25-22 deficit into a 37-25 lead.
Ritchie ignited the pivotal run with two foul shots Kelly Potvin (8 points, 6 rebounds) hit a turnaround from the foul line. Jacky McLaughlin (10 points) added a free throw, then canned a 3-pointer to ignite a 7-0 burst that consumed only 54 seconds.
Jil Vaughan (10 points) scored twice from down low on feeds by Karlyn Adler as Colby re-established its confidence and pulled out to a 12-point advantage with 1:54 to play.
“I think we really kind of picked up our intensity on defense and focused on executing our plays,” Ritchie said.
Colby, which featured a combination of superior frontcourt height and backcourt savvy, never led by fewer than 12 points after that and later extended its lead to 25 points in the second half.
Rachael Mack of Augusta scored 15 points to head five double-figure scorers. Julianne Kowalski scored 12 points for the Mules, who shot 51 percent from the floor and outrebounded the Eagles 39-18.
Senior guard Caitlyn Butterfield of Gorham was the catalyst for Husson with 14 points, three assists and two steals. Bree Hanscom of Mattawamkeag (6 rebounds) and Amanda Gifford of Lee (7 steals) contributed nine points each and Albert of Fort Kent added eight.
Husson’s nonleague slate also has included the likes of Bowdoin, Bates, Southern Maine, the University of New England and Brandeis.
Tuesday’s contest was the last nonconference game of the season for the Eagles, who begin North Atlantic Conference play Friday and Saturday with home games against Lyndon State and Johnson State, respectively.