ORONO, Maine — It was a game that had the makings of being a season-changer for the University of Maine women’s basketball team.
Instead, it wound up being another frustrating loss for the Black Bears.
Binghamton University overcame a 16-point deficit with an efficient and balanced offensive attack Sunday afternoon to grind out a 67-65 America East victory over UMaine at Alfond Arena.
Kara Elofson scored 11 of her 13 points to fuel a second-half surge that helped the Bearcats spoil one of the Black Bears’ best offensive performances of the season.
“I’m very disappointed in our post defense,” said UMaine coach Richard Barron, whose team fell to 1-17 overall (0-5 AE) with its 14th consecutive loss.
“There’s absolutely no excuse for a 5-[foot]-10 post [Elofson] to score 13 points in the second half and [have] six rebounds,” he added.
Binghamton (3-16, 2-4 AE) was able to execute, regardless of which defense the Black Bears used. Elofson (13 points, 7 rebounds) excelled against UMaine’s man-to-man, while Stephanie Jensen (15 points) was the solution to the hosts’ 2-3 zone as she went 5-for-10 from the 3-point line, including two clutch shots in the last 3:16.
“Stephanie Jensen and Kim Albrecht, the two of them are very shot-confident against that zone,” said Bearcats coach Nicole Scholl, “and Kara hit a couple baskets early on the inside and our players were smart and kept getting her the basketball. It was definitely a nice balance for us.”
Binghamton responded after UMaine had built a 16-point, first-half advantage behind 11 points from freshman Liz Wood, who finished with a career-high 20 points, nine rebounds and six assists.
The Bearcats shot 52 percent from the field in the second half, including 67 percent (6-for-9) from 3-point range, to snuff out UMaine’s bid for a win.
“From our perspective, our defensive effort was very, very poor and it was the same problem over and over,” Barron offered.
Sherae Swinson netted 13 points and Albrecht added 12 for the Bearcats, who outrebounded the Bears 35-32.
Wood’s effort was complemented by the play of classmate Lauren Bodine, who drained five 3-pointers on her way to a career-best 15 points. Sophomore Danielle Walczak contributed 12 points and five rebounds and senior Corinne Wellington added eight points and four rebounds.
Sophie Weckstrom had a strong game for UMaine while replacing starting point guard Courtney Anderson of Greene, who sat out with an undisclosed injury. The freshman from Finland registered seven points, seven rebounds and six assists with only one turnover in 32 minutes.
“I thought for the most part she forced the tempo and made some nice plays in transition,” Barron said.
Freshman center Anna Heise also missed the game, with an ankle injury.
Binghamton trailed 33-24 at halftime, but regained its momentum with a 13-2 run early in the second half. Swinson had five points in the surge and two Jasbriell Swain free throws tied the game 41-41 with 14:15 to play.
UMaine experienced some offensive struggles, including two turnovers during that time frame as Weckstrom sat out 2 1/2 minutes after getting her third foul.
The Bears responded behind the play of Wood and Bodine, whose 3-pointer with 8:15 left put them ahead 56-48. UMaine couldn’t hold on.
Elofson scored on an offensive rebound, then sandwiched a low-post move and a driving layup around an Albrecht 3-pointer to give the Bearcats a 57-56 lead.
UMaine had one more counter-punch, as Bodine hit two 3-pointers around one by Jensen.
“Coming in and hitting those shots, it’s just having the confidence in it and to take it, because that’s my role,” said Bodine, who had played only two minutes in Wednesday’s loss to Boston University.
However, Albrecht made a wide-open 18-footer, Elofson scored on an offensive rebound and Jensen knocked down another 3 to give Binghamton a 67-62 edge with 1:15 remaining.
Weckstrom got the Bears within two with her second 3-pointer of the contest, but Binghamton rebounded two missed 3’s by Jensen and a foul shot and Bodine’s half-court heave at the buzzer came up short.
The Black Bears built up ample confidence with a first-half surge during which they held Binghamton scoreless for eight minutes.
Mikaela Gustafsson got it started with a 16-footer, then Wood made a free throw and Walczak drove the lane for a basket. Gustafsson chipped in a foul shot, then Wellington converted a low-post move, before Wood and Weckstrom knocked down 3-pointers and Wood scored from underneath to make it 20-6 at the 8:33 mark.
“It’s definitely a good feeling, but I think that’s what we need to expect from ourselves every game,” Wood said. “It can’t just be like a once-in-a-while thing.”
Swinson hit a foul-line turnaround shot with 8:11 left to end the run at 16-0 and Binghamton didn’t let things get out of hand.
“If things aren’t going well for you on the offensive side of things, you need to let your defense carry you a little bit and we did a much better job of that in the second,” Scholl said.