KINGSTON, R.I — Senior guard Brittany Williams scored a career-high 19 points, including the clinching free throws with four seconds left, to spark the University of Maine to a 62-58 women’s basketball victory over Rhode Island at the Ryan Center.
It was the first victory for the Black Bears (1-1) under first-year head coach Richard Barron.
“It was a gutty win,” Barron told Don Shields of Black Bear Sports Properties, a division of Learfield Sports.
UMaine’s returning players were able to earn bragging rights over former head coach Cindy Blodgett, who is an assistant coach for Rhode Island.
It also was the first road victory for UMaine since it beat Bryant College in Smithfield, R.I., on Nov. 13, 2010.
Williams shot 7-for-10 from the field, including 2-for-2 from 3-point range, She did so despite sitting out more than eight minutes in the second half after being shaken up on an illegal screen foul by URI’s Sherrie Session.
“You could just tell that we missed that senior leadership on the court,” Barron said, “How great was it that she got back out there and hit these clutch free throws to win the game for us. I’m especially proud of her.”
Sophomore guard Ashleigh Roberts contributed 15 points and eight rebounds for the Black Bears, while freshman guard Courtney Anderson of Greene added 10 points, four assists and two steals.
UMaine was able to overcome 24 turnovers in part by shooting 52 percent (23-for-44) from the field. The Rams outrebounded the Bears 37-34, including 23 offensive boards.
Tanika Whittaker (six assists, five steals), Anjanae Boone (six rebounds) and Ashley Rivera (four assists) tossed in 11 points apiece to lead Rhode Island. UMaine held the hosts to 30 percent (19-for-63) floor shooting.
The victory came less than 48 hours after the Bears’ season-opening 53-48 loss at Central Connecticut.
“This was a hard turnaround,” Barron said. “(We faced) very different styles of play with the zone defense that Rhode Island plays. We’re doing that on one day’s rest and short practice.”
UMaine lead 22-8 in the first half and maintained the lead until the late going, when the Rams went on a 9-0 run to take a 58-57 lead.
Anderson’s jumper had given the Bears a 57-49 lead with 3:46 to play, but the Rams responded.
Corinne Coia scored five straight points, including a jumper after a Williams turnover, to cut UMaine’s lead to 57-54 with 2:25 left. Rivera’s layup off a Rebecca Knight turnover made it a one-point game, then Whittaker hit two foul shots after another turnover to put URI in front 58-57 with 1:08 remaining.
Roberts answered for UMaine when she had her shot blocked but rebounded the miss and scored a layup with 48 seconds left. Williams followed a URI miss by making one free throw, then Williams rebounded a Rivera miss, was fouled and hit the clinching foul shots with four seconds left.
“Down the stretch we found a way to get it done,” Barron said.
UMaine had built a 14-point lead during the first 12 minutes, sparked by Williams. She scored eight points during a span of 54 seconds in one key stretch, sandwiching 3-pointers around her own steal and layup that put the Bears on top 15-7 at the 11:45 mark.
Later, Roberts scored back-to-back hoops and Anderson drained her second 3-pointer of the half to make it 22-8 with 8:13 remaining in the half.
Correction: An early version of this story requires correction. Don Shields, the play-by-play voice for the team, works for Black Bear Sports Properties, a division of Learfield Sports.