ORONO — Stony Brook went into Alfond Arena Sunday hoping to make something positive happen.
The Seawolves not only had lost 12 straight, they were playing their third game in six days since the resignation last Monday of head coach Michelle Cherry.
Finally, Stony Brook has something to smile about.
Tamiel Murray stole the ball from the University of Maine’s Katelyn Vanderhoff in the closing seconds, enabling Stony Brook to hold on for a 73-70 America East women’s basketball victory Sunday afternoon.
“We didn’t give up. We just kept fighting and got the job done,” said interim head coach Eveyln Thompson.
The Seawolves (4-15, 1-6 AE) halted a losing skid that had dated back to Dec. 2 while giving Thompson her first victory as a head coach.
“Not only is it an opportunity for me to be a head coach, but I get my first win with a group of young women that I love and respect,” Thompson said. “I tried not to tear up and cry but it was a very emotional thing for me.”
The struggles continued for coach Cindy Blodgett’s UMaine team (3-16, 1-6), which slipped into last place in the conference standings with its fourth consecutive loss.
The Bears committed 25 turnovers that led directly to 23 Stony Brook points and helped them attempt 16 more shots.
“Glaring,” was what Blodgett called the turnover number. “In order for us to win, we’ve got to be pretty clean in most of those major statistics.”
All-conference forward Kirsten Jeter poured in a career-high 28 points, including 18 in the first half, to lead the charge for Stony Brook. She also contributed 10 rebounds, four assists and four steals.
Destiny Jacobs and Sam Landers netted 12 points each, while Murray chipped in with five assists and four steals for the Seawolves, who had 17 turnovers of their own.
Sophomore guard Vanderhoff led UMaine with 17 points, seven rebounds, four assists and five steals, but committed seven turnovers. Ashley Roberts posted 14 points, including 10-for-13 foul shooting, and nine rebounds with eight turnovers.
Senior Tanna Ross of Newburgh added 13 points and six rebounds and freshman Ali Nalivaika contributed 10 points, nine rebounds and three blocked shots.
The Bears outrebounded the Seawolves 48-39, but afforded SBU 16 offensive boards and 19 second-chance points.
Stony Brook took the lead for good with a 6-0 run late in the second half. Turnovers led to the first two baskets.
Jeter made a steal and cashed in with a layup to break a 61-61 tie, then Jacobs made a steal and, after a miss and an offensive rebound, hit a short turnaround shot. Jacobs then scored from underneath off an Amanda Corona pass to give the visitors a 67-61 lead with 3:52 left.
“That’s just being smarter on our part, being more aware of where the defenders are and making better passes,” Vanderhoff said of the miscues.
Roberts and Vanderhoff scored three points each during a 6-2 run that got UMaine back within two at 69-67, but Landers’ 17-footer after a missed 3-pointer by the Bears’ Brittany Williams pushed the lead back to four.
Ross countered with a 3-pointer for the Bears, who then got the ball back by forcing a shot clock violation with 13 seconds left.
Vanderhoff worked the ball across the midcourt stripe only to have Murray knock the ball away, recover it and pass ahead to Jeter, who was fouled with 0.1 seconds left and made two foul shots.
“I think it’s decision-making,” Vanderhoff said of UMaine’s turnover woes.
“They were really quick. Once we did get a rebound, they’d be right on us. I remember a couple times getting ‘picked’ right away.”
The Bears were bothered by foul trouble to their post players. With freshman Jaymie Druding sidelined by an undisclosed injury, junior Sam Baranowski came off the bench to provide a lift (7 points, 3 rebounds), but fouled out in only 11 minutes.
UMaine outscored SBU 23-15 from the foul line, but missed eight free throws.
“Make a few of those and you put even more pressure on the team,” Blodgett said.
UMaine returns to action Wednesday with a 7 p.m. home game against New Hampshire.