BANGOR, Maine — Ashleigh Roberts was thinking about it from the moment she woke up on Wednesday.
It was the day she would play her final home game in a University of Maine uniform.
Roberts helped make sure she and her three fellow seniors went out on a high note on “Senior Night.” She posted 14 points, 10 rebounds and four assists in the Black Bears’ 84-65 America East women’s basketball victory over UMass Lowell on Wednesday night at the Cross Insurance Center.
“Honestly, I woke up this morning pretty emotional, just thinking like dang, I’m not ready to face this, the last time that I’ll be coming out,” Roberts said. “Once we got here, I was happy.”
With her effort, Roberts moved past former standout Heather Briggs into 11th place on UMaine’s career scoring list with 1,177 points.
“Ash, you can’t say enough for her leadership for our team this year and the effort she’s brought to the table, and the competitiveness,” said sophomore Liz Wood, who was a force for UMaine racking up 20 points, 15 rebounds, eight assists and two steals.
Coach Richard Barron’s UMaine squad (15-13, 9-6 AE) locked up the program’s first winning season since 2004-2005 with a solid effort against conference the conference newcomers, who slipped to 5-22 and 4-12, respectively.
Cherrish Wallace, a fifth-year player and graduate student, was among three UMaine seniors who played Wednesday. She left some memories with a 15-point, five-assist performance.
“Cherry’s only been here for this year but she’s already made a huge impact on this program,” Wood said.
Oft-injured senior Rachele Burns of Gorham tied a career high with five points and added one assist and one steal in seven minutes of action, while classmate Ali Nalivaika suited up but was unable to play because of a knee injury.
“Both Rach and Ali struggled through some injuries and they showed a lot of perseverance and I really look up to them for that,” Wood offered.
Sigi Koizar added five points, five rebounds and three assists for the Black Bears, who outrebounded the River Hawks 57-34. UMaine piled up 28 assists on its 35 field goals.
Shannon Samuels was the catalyst for UMass Lowell with a game-high 31 points, five rebounds and three assists. Lindsey Doucette posted a double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds along with five steals and two blocked shots.
The Black Bears led 41-27 at halftime despite less-than-stellar shooting and uninspired player-to-player defense.
UMaine shot 37 percent (16-for-43) against UMass Lowell’s assortment of defenses, which included 1-3-1 and 1-2-2 zones and player. The Bears worked the ball for numerous open shots, but had more trouble close to the basket, where the River Hawks came up with four blocked shots.
UMaine improved its defense and ratcheted up the offense in the second half. The hosts shot 56 percent (19-for-34) from the field, thanks to their ability to get the ball inside.
The Bears outscored the River Hawks 48-22 in the paint.
UMaine used an 8-2 run amidst an 18-7 surge to put the game out of reach in the second half.
Freshman Sheraton Jones scored a fast-break layup off a pass from Wood, who followed with an up-and-under move. Jones then drove the baseline for a basket that gave the Black Bears a 58-38 advantage with 12:48 remaining.
“UMass Lowell’s a really hard team to play,” Wood said. “They really disrupt you on offense and they have a way of flustering you, so I think it just took us a little while to get accustomed to that. In the second half we relaxed and started hitting our shots.”
The Black Bears finish the regular season on Saturday at New Hampshire before heading to Albany next week for the league tourney, which begins on Friday, March 7.