BANGOR, Maine — Toughness can come in the physical sense and in the psychological aspect. The Hartford Hawks demonstrated both Wednesday night.
Hartford overcame an eight-point, second-half deficit, then dominated the overtime period on its way to a 66-56 America East women’s basketball victory over the University of Maine at the Cross Insurance Center.
It was the 18th consecutive victory over the Black Bears for coach Jen Rizzotti’s Hawks (2-8), who won the mutual conference opener and halted a seven-game losing streak.
“I feel like we showed a lot of toughness and I think that’s something that I’ve been urging them to give me,” Rizzotti said.
“When you talk about toughness, sometimes it’s not the shot going in or hoping that they miss, it’s just find a way,” she added.
Coach Richard Barron’s UMaine team (5-4, 0-1 AE) struggled in the second half and overtime, committing 16 of its 27 turnovers after intermission. That was in contrast to the Hawks, who turned it over only five times in the second half and OT after having 13 in the first 20 minutes.
Barron was disappointed with the Black Bears’ efforts on all fronts.
“The turnovers, the fouls, the rebounding, the physical effort, the hustle, execution, decision-making, the mental and physical toughness — all of those things were disappointing and subpar. And the coaching. I’m disappointed in myself,” Barron said.
Freshman guard Deanna Mayza tossed in a game-high 18 points to pace Hartford, which also received 15 points from Alyssa Reaves and 11 points from Amber Bepko. Cherelle Moore added nine points and seven rebounds.
The Bears’ balanced offense was headed by 12 points each from sophomores Liz Wood (9 rebounds, 6 assists, 2 steals) and Mikaela Gustafsson (7 rebounds). Senior Ashleigh Roberts netted 11 points with six rebounds.
However, each of those players committed six turnovers against the Hawks’ tenacious man-to-man defense.
UMaine led 39-30 with 11:13 to play in regulation after back-to-back 3-pointers by Courtney Anderson and Chantel Charles. That’s when Hartford decided to get to work.
Moore and Bepko scored four points each during a 14-2 surge that gave Hartford a 44-41 lead with 5:20 to play. UMaine had six turnovers during that span.
“I think that some of the turnovers were just baffling. They were self-inflicted,” Barron said.
The Bears never trailed by more than three in regulation and eventually forced overtime. Sophie Weckstrom nailed a 3-pointer in transition with 1:05 remaining, while Gustafsson sank two clutch free throws with 7.6 seconds left.
Hartford owned the extra period. Mayza scored from down low to put the Hawks ahead for good, then Shanise Bultron took a tap-out rebound at the top of the key and buried a 3-pointer that gave them a 57-52 advantage 1:01 into OT.
Gustafsson cut the deficit to three points with an eight-footer from the baseline, but Bepko made a steal that she turned into a three-point play.
Hartford’s tenacious offensive rebounding, spearheaded by three in the overtime by Moore, led to extra possessions and enabled the visitors to stay on top.
“I thought just in terms of physical energy and physical effort, they deserved to win the game,” said Barron, who added, “as well as execution.”
The Black Bears emerged from a turnover-plagued first half with a 28-22 lead. They shot 50 percent (12-for-24) from the floor but had 11 turnovers.
Hartford was hampered by its own turnover woes.
Roberts, Gustafsson and Wood all scored close-range baskets during a 6-0 surge that gave UMaine a 28-20 advantage with 18 seconds left in the half.
“This was a game where I felt like we could have done some things to put them away in the first half and we didn’t, we let them hang around,” Barron said.
UMaine was without sophomore shooting guard Lauren Bodine, who reportedly took a bump on the head Sunday against Fairfield and was held out as a precautionary measure. Senior guard Rachele Burns also was sidelined with a leg ailment.
The Bears return to action Sunday with a 2 p.m. nonconference game at Northeastern.