ORONO — Playing against a team the caliber of Vermont, mistakes and lapses must be kept to a minimum.
The University of Maine was much more competitive in Tuesday night’s women’s basketball game at Alfond Arena, but a couple of key lapses gave the Catamounts the upper hand.
Vermont outscored UMaine 11-2 over the last 2:47 of the first half, building a lead that helped it forge a 64-44 America East victory.
UMaine (7-15 overall, 3-7 AE) never completely overcame the first-half lull and failed to capitalize on a potential comeback opportunity in the second half.
“We’re at a point where we can close that gap and it’s our job to close it,” UMaine coach Cindy Blodgett said of gaining ground on the league’s better teams.
“We can’t afford to have those three- or four-minute lapses.”
Vermont (18-5, 8-2 AE), which won the Jan. 7 meeting 80-49 in Burlington, smothered the Bears with their active man-to-man defense. UMaine committed 23 turnovers and shot only 29 percent from the field.
Vermont took advantage, scoring 22 points off those turnovers.
“They were in the passing lanes a lot, but I think we just weren’t getting open,” said freshman guard Katelyn Vanderhoff, who led UMaine with 10 points, her second straight double-figure scoring game.
“They did get their hands on balls, but I think it’s us not getting open and us not making a good pass,” she added.
The visitors also outrebounded the Bears 40-30 behind a 12-rebound effort from Lauren Buschmann. Vermont shot 39 percent and went 12-for-14 from the foul line.
Junior Tanna Ross of Newburgh provided a spark in her first significant action of the season. She hit three 3-pointers on her way to nine points, while Samantha Baranowski added eight points and six rebounds. The Bears managed only seven assists.
Ross is thrilled to be back in action after missing most of the season with a broken bone in her left foot suffered during preseason.
“I’ve been supporting my teammates all year and to get to play with them has been great,” Ross said. “Having great teammates to support me that are very interested in getting me on the floor helps a lot. It’s an easy transition.”
Heady guard May Kotsopoulos paced the Catamounts with 18 points, while Courtnay Pilyaitis tossed in 14. Sofia Iwobi and Tonya Young added 10 points each.
UMaine played a scrappy first half, but the Catamounts found an opening in the last three minutes.
The Bears pulled within five at 28-23 with 3:35 left on an Amanda Tewksbury rebound basket and a Corinne Wellington free throw. However, Vermont’s senior guard tandem of Pilypaitis and Kotsopoulos accounted for nine of the points during the ensuing 11-2 spurt.
The Catamounts attacked the basket, netting two free throws each by Young and Pilypaitis. A turnover led to a nifty penetration move and basket by Kotsopoulos that made it 34-23 at the 1:59 mark.
“I thought we had played decent up until that point,” Blodgett said. “I thought the last 3½ minutes we let it get out of hand a little bit. We have those moments where I think they’re mental breakdowns where not all five [players] are not on that same page.”
UMaine countered with two Samantha Wheeler foul shots, but Kotsopoulos converted another shot from the paint and Pilypaitis drained a 3-pointer as time expired to make it 39-25.
“When you’re playing against a team as good as Vermont, you can’t have those breakdowns. You’ve got to close out the half,” Blodgett said.
Vermont opened the second half with a 10-4 run that featured six points by Kotsopoulos. That gave the Cats a 20-point cushion.
UMaine later manufactured a 9-3 surge to cut the deficit to 15 points at 55-40 with 9:24 remaining. Later, the Bears had an opportunity to make things interesting, but missed two free throws and failed to score despite open shots on the next three possessions.
“I think we missed an opportunity where we could have really taken that and cut that lead and then you don’t know what will happen,” Blodgett said.
Vermont then ended the suspense, scoring eight unanswered points to put the game out of reach at 63-40 with 4:08 to play.
UMaine next plays Saturday at Maryland Baltimore County.


Pete Warner

Pete is a Bangor native who graduated from Bangor High School, Class of 1980. He earned a B.S. in Journalism (Advertising) from the University of Maine in 1986. He has been a full-time member of the Bangor...