BANGOR, Maine — Things did not always go the University of Maine’s way during Thursday night’s opener against North Dakota State.
The Black Bears persevered through some early struggles and the result was a season-opening win.
Courtney Anderson made two key free throws with 31 seconds left, then Ashleigh Roberts sank three of four in the final 15 seconds to help UMaine grind out a 64-59 women’s basketball victory over the Bison at the Cross Insurance Center.
“I think it’s definitely special,” said senior guard Ashleigh Roberts, who led the Black Bears with a game-high 18 points and contributed eight rebounds and two steals.
“It’s not a feeling I’ve had for a long time,” she added. “We’ll definitely celebrate it, because it does mean a lot.”
Coach Richard Barron’s team spotted North Dakota State (1-1) an early 10-point lead and trailed by as many as 13 late in the half. However, UMaine solved its turnover issues and shaky free-throw shooting.
Sophomore forward Liz Wood contributed 12 points, 13 rebounds, two assists and three steals. Lauren Bodine hit three 3-pointers for nine points and Chantel Charles chipped in eight points, seven rebounds and two assists.
“I think the best thing about this game is, it was a team win,” Wood said. “Everyone who played contributed in some way, whether it was rebounding, scoring, [or] great defense.”
The Black Bears outrebounded the Bison 46-38, grabbing a 16-8 edge on the offensive glass that led to 16 second-chance points.
“That’s just toughness right there,” North Dakota State coach Carolyn DeHoff said, referring to the Bears’ tenacity.
“You get a rebound and all of a sudden that things out of your hands and a layup on their end. That’s a deflator,” she added.
Brooke LeMar paced the Bison with 12 points and three assists, while Bree Whatman tallied 11 points with three assists. They combined for 20 of those points in the first half.
UMaine limited the Bison to 19 percent (5-for-27) field-goal shooting in the second half and committed just five turnovers after having 12 in the first half.
“For our team to win a game like this is a huge step in the right direction because we won it with defense, we won it with ball control and we won it with rebounding,” Barron said.
UMaine started its resurgence with a 10-0 surge late in the first half.
Sophomores Chantel Charles and Lauren Bodine buried back-to-back 3-pointers 18 seconds apart, then Wood and Sophie Weckstrom each made a free throw. Sigi Koizar’s driving scoop shot with 45 seconds left made it 37-34 at the break.
The Bears then scored the first five points of the second half and took the lead for good with a 4-0 run that included Anna Heise’s foul shot and a conventional three-point play by Wood that made it 50-46 with 11:59 left.
Bodine and Charles later hit 3-pointers during an 8-2 burst that gave UMaine a seven-point cushion. Those came after some missed close-range shots.
“We started to become a little less aggressive and cautious, so when we hit those 3’s, it kind of gave us some breathing room,” Barron said.
Liz Keena scored four points during a 5-0 NDSU run, including two foul shots that cut the Bears’ lead to 59-57 with 1:10 to play.
However, Anderson calmly sank two free throws to make it a two-possession game and Roberts helped close it out.
“I’m just so happy that they were rewarded with a win after giving that kind of effort,” Barron said.
UMaine returns to action Saturday at 6 p.m. against Bryant at the Cross Center.