BANGOR, Maine — It took two buzzer beaters for Yale University to earn a victory on Sunday afternoon.
Nyasha Sarju scored on a desperation drive to the basket as time expired, lifting the Bulldogs to a tense 86-85 women’s basketball victory over the University of Maine at the Cross Insurance Center.
“We have some good shooters, but she’s probably our best pure shooter and she turned down a wide-open look to take off [for the basket],” said Yale coach Chris Gobrecht.
Yale (6-7) prevailed in a hard-fought contest with the aid of Sarah Halejian’s half-court, bank-in 3-pointer to end the first half.
“That’s just inexcusable, giving somebody a shot,” UMaine coach Richard Barron said of the Halejian heave. “You don’t give anybody anything in this game, and we did.”
The Black Bears (6-8) fell victim in great part to their turnovers, committing 23 that led directly to 26 points by the Bulldogs. The miscues helped take some of the luster off UMaine’s 61 percent shooting (33-for-54) and its 32-28 rebounding edge.
“We were pretty good on offense, moving the ball around and attacking the rim, hitting 3’s. The only thing was passing and catching,” Barron said.
UMaine had grabbed the lead on Ashleigh Roberts’ baseline drive with 15 seconds remaining, but the Bulldogs were able to find a seam in the defense for the game-winner.
“Credit her for making the shot,” said Bears sophomore Liz Wood. “It hurts, but we’ve got to go on to conference [play] now.”
Halejian paced Yale, which shot 48 percent, with 20 points. Sarju finished with 16 points and Lena Munzer netted 14 while Alex Osborn-Jones and Janna Graf tallied 12 each.
Wood spearheaded UMaine with a 23-point performance that included four 3-pointers in her team’s 9-for-16 long-range accuracy.
“It was nice. I’ve been struggling with my 3 a little recently, but I had a stride so I was just looking for my 3-pointer after that,” she said.
Roberts connected for 18 points and grabbed eight rebounds and sixth-year guard Cherrish Wallace contributed 15 points and eight assists in her home debut. Lauren Bodine added 13. Chantel Charles dished out six assists.
Ultimately, the Bears’ man-to-man defense could not make quite enough plays.
“The bottom line is, we just didn’t get stops,” Barron said. “On the other hand, 85 [points] ought to be enough to win the game.”
Yale led 78-71 with 5:15 to play, but UMaine surged back into the lead with a 10-2 run that included five points from Wood. Her 19-footer put the Bears on top 81-80 with 2:59 to go.
“They hit some big shots to take the lead,” Gobrecht said.
The teams traded leads as Yale’s Katie Werner hit two free throws and UMaine’s Wallace drove in for a layup. However, the Bulldogs eventually regained the lead on Graf’s fast-break layup with 29 seconds remaining.
The Bears answered on Roberts’ baseline drive, eliciting a Yale timeout with 15 seconds left. UMaine pressured the ball on the perimeter, but when Sarju got the ball on the left side, she drove to the basket a threw in a seven-footer while falling to the floor.
“Credit them for making the shots and know that we’re within tenths of a second of a win,” Barron said.
The Bulldogs seized the momentum going into halftime as Halejian banked in a half-court 3-pointer that gave Yale a 47-41 lead. The junior guard scored 16 points in 14 minutes.
The visitors utilized a quick-striking transition attack to outscore UMaine 10-2 over the final 11:19 of the half and grab the upper hand.
The Black Bears were plagued by 13 turnovers, which the Bulldogs converted into 19 points. The miscues marred a half during which UMaine shot 63 percent (15-for-24) from the floor and outrebounded Yale 16-13.
The hosts’ effectiveness also was hampered by foul trouble to Wood, who logged only 10 minutes, and Wallace, who was whistled for three personals in nine minutes of action.