ORONO — The University of Maine provided a glimpse of its potential Tuesday night.
Unfortunately for the Black Bears, it wasn’t enough.
Boston University torched UMaine for 12 3-pointers, including eight while building a substantial first-half lead, then fended off a determined comeback attempt by the Black Bears to register a 71-59 America East women’s basketball victory at Alfond Arena.
The league-leading Terriers (13-9, 10-0 AE) needed some crisp offensive execution down the stretch to avert a potential upset by the last-place Bears (3-19, 1-9 AE), who dropped their seventh consecutive game.
The game was a far cry from the first meeting back on Jan. 2 in Boston, where Boston University rolled to a 78-40 victory. This time, UMaine refused to go down without a fight.
”The last 30 minutes of this game gave you a glimpse of that team we can be,” said UMaine coach Cindy Blodgett, who added it is not a moral victory.
”That’s the top team in the conference and we had them on the ropes after a 32-6 start,” she added. “Hopefully, our team can build on that and look at that and say, we can be as good as we want to be.”
The Terriers, who extended their winning streak to 10 games, essentially won the contest during the first 10 minutes, 27 seconds. They hit eight 3-pointers, including four by Chantell Alford (game-high 28 points) and three by Alex Young (22 points), while breezing to the 26-point lead with 9:33 to play.
”I thought the first 10 minutes was a nightmare,” Blodgett said.
UMaine, which opened up in its 1-2-2 matchup zone and applied 1-2-2 three-quarter-court pressure early, could not cover BU’s shooters.
”We really were making the extra pass,” said BU coach Kelly Greenberg. “We don’t get to see zone too much, so we were excited because we have a lot of good 3-point shooters.”
However, the Bears would not allow BU to put the game away. Behind hustling man-to-man defense and aggressive rebounding, UMaine outscored the Terriers 53-39 over the last 29 1/2 minutes.
UMaine rallied to within three points at 50-47 on a short turnaround shot by Shareka Maner with 8:14 to play. And the Bears were still within one possession at 54-51 after Katelyn Vanderhoff’s 17-foot jumper with 5:47 remaining.
Vanderhoff said UMaine drew some inspiration from watching the men’s team overcome a 22-point deficit Saturday at Binghamton.
”We just decided to take it point by point and (said) don’t look too far ahead, don’t look at the big gap in the score,” she said.
However, Boston University was able to maintain its composure and ride the play of Alford (4 assists, 4 steals) and Young down the stretch.
Alford canned a wide-open 3-pointer to push BU’s lead to six, then made two foul shots after a turnover on an illegal screen call to give the Terriers a 59-51 edge with 5:05 left. UMaine never got closer than six points after that.
”The second half, they shot 27 percent,” Blodgett pointed out. “That’s defense. That’s hard work and toughness.”
The Terriers went 12-for-31 (39 percent) from 3-point range and racked up 19 assists. Kerry Cashman had six points and a game-high 13 rebounds for BU, while Mo Moran chipped in with nine points, eight assists and four turnovers.
Vanderhoff and freshman guard Ashleigh Roberts each contributed 13 points and six rebounds to propel UMaine, while Amber Smith also netted 13 points. Samantha Baranowski added eight points and seven boards while Brittany Williams and Greer Babbe provided strong defense.
The Bears shot 40 percent from the floor, but committed 19 turnovers that led directly to 27 BU points.
BU shot 47 percent from the field (15-for-32), including 8-for-19 (42 percent) from beyond the 3-point arc while pulling out to an early lead and an eventual 40-23 halftime margin.
After the break, Bears mounted a 12-1 run to make it 46-35 with 12:48 to play. Roberts sparked that surge with three driving baskets in transition.
UMaine held BU to one field goal during a span of more than 10 minutes and in the meantime put together another offensive burst. This time, Smith scored six points to fuel a 12-2 flurry that made it 50-47.
However, Alford hit an open 17-footer to keep BU in front and the Terriers held on.