The University of Maine women’s basketball team ended a long period of futility against the University of Hartford on Wednesday afternoon.
Mikaela Gustafsson put the Black Bears ahead with a clutch jumper with 2:05 to play, then UMaine made key plays down the stretch to pull out a 60-56 America East victory over the Hawks at Chase Family Arena in West Hartford, Conn.
“It was a good one. It was redemption,” UMaine coach Richard Barron told Don Shields of the Black Bear Sports Network.
UMaine won its fourth straight contest. In the process, the Black Bears (14-11, 8-4 AE) snapped an 18-game losing streak to Hartford that dated back to Feb. 25, 2005.
“That’s really special for us and it’s something that will give our kids a lot of confidence,” Barron said.
UMaine is 5-1 in America East road games this season.
Senior Ashleigh Roberts paced the Bears with 13 points and nine rebounds, while sophomore Liz Wood contributed 13 points, six rebounds and four steals.
Sophie Weckstrom posted 10 points, three assists and two steals, while Cherrish Wallace added eight points and four assists. Chantel Charles chipped in with five points and four rebounds and Anna Heise grabbed eight rebounds.
Deanna Mayza led Hartford (9-15, 6-5 AE) with a game-high 17 points, Amber Bepko netted 10 points and Alyssa Reaves provided eight points and a game-leading 13 rebounds.
UMaine erased a five-point deficit, taking the lead for good (52-50) on Gustafsson’s foul-line jumper as the shot clock expired with 2:05 to play.
Morgan Lumb hit a foul shot for Hartford, but Roberts answered for the Bears with an up-and-under move to make it 54-51 with 1:25 left.
“Ashleigh did a great job. We were getting the ball in to her inside,” Barron said. “We went inside on her on our diagonal play and she finished. We made our free throws, for the most part, down the stretch.”
UMaine buckled down defensively, forcing two straight turnovers. Wood’s steal on the latter eventually led to two Roberts foul shots that extended the lead to 56-51 with 23.5 seconds remaining.
Mayza sank two free throws with 12.2 seconds left to cut the Bears’ edge to 56-53. After a Hartford timeout, a cleverly designed inbounds play resulted in a long inbounds pass from Wood to a streaking Weckstrom, whose layup and free throw made it a six-point game.
Bepko nailed a 3-pointer, but Roberts sank a foul shot to help close out the win.
UMaine shot 35 percent (22-for-63) from the floor, including 30 percent in the first half, but converted 12 of its 16 free throws. The Black Bears also outrebounded the Hawks 42-39 and snatched 14 offensive boards that led to 11 second-chance points.
“We seemed a little bit tight shooting the ball today, we knew what was at stake,” Barron said. “It was a pressure game. It was loud in here.”
UMaine managed only a season-low eight assists in the game, but committed just 10 turnovers after making 23 in the first meeting, a 66-56 overtime loss Dec. 11 in Bangor.
Hartford led 24-23 at halftime, but UMaine used a 6-0 run early in the second half to take a three point lead.
Hartford answered with an 8-0 run, holding Maine scoreless over a five-minute span, to take its largest lead of the game 36-31.
The Black Bears battled right back with a 5-0 run sparked by a Lauren Bodine 3-pointer.
UMaine returns home Sunday for a 2 p.m. game against first-place Albany at the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor.