BANGOR, Maine — It was a victory for the University of Maine women’s basketball team — and for the fight against breast cancer.
On the court at the Cross Insurance Center, the Black Bears defeated Binghamton University 65-53 on Sunday afternoon.
In the stands, and throughout the community, UMaine helped support breast cancer research by raising almost $14,000 to support the Kay Yow Cancer Fund, the official charity of the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association.
UMaine coach Richard Barron helped spearhead the effort, coaching the contest with his hair dyed pink and wearing pink clothing.
“I was pretty shocked,” sophomore guard Sophie Weckstrom said of first seeing the pink hair.
She sparked UMaine with a game-high 20 points on 4-for-6 3-point shooting.
The pink hair was Barron’s extra incentive for supporters to meet a $10,000 fundraising goal prior to Sunday’s game. After the win, more than 100 fans joined team members on the floor to watch Barron get his head shaved.
“I don’t think any other coach would dye their head pink and then shave it in front of everyone,” said UMaine sophomore Liz Wood, who finished with 13 points, six rebounds, three assists and two steals.
“We’re really proud of him, we’re backing him 100 percent on community involvement, so I think that’s really cool,” she added.
Barron praised UMaine fans, players and staff for their dedication and generosity in raising $13,585.
“I think it’s just tremendous,” he said. “Its touching. It’s humbling. It makes you feel good and everybody deserves a lot of credit.”
UMaine (13-11, 7-4 America East) built its victory around defense while equalling the program’s best win total since the 2004-2005 season.
The Black Bears manufactured a 19-2 run during a nine-minute span of the first half while manufacturing a 33-18 halftime advantage.
UMaine played aggressive man-to-man defense and displayed an effective transition attack. The hosts were often able to contest dribble penetration by the Bearcats.
“We tried to focus on eliminating baseline drives,” Wood said. “I think we did a better job of that this game than we did at Binghamton (a 64-51 victory).”
The Bearcats (4-19, 1-9 AE) shot only 18 percent (5-for-28) in the first half, but hung around thanks to its scrappy rebounding and 8-for-8 free-throw shooting.
Leading 7-6, UMaine went on an extended 12-0 run. Wood got it started with a 3-pointer, then Anna Heise scored off a low-post move. Mikaela Gustafsson scored on an offensive rebound, before Roberts scored the next five points.
Roberts (7 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals) sank a foul shot, then banked in an eight-footer from the lane and hustled in to rebound her own missed 3-pointer for a layup that gave UMaine a 19-6 lead with 8:07 remaining in the half.
Morgan Murphy (8 points, 6 rebounds) finally ended a Binghamton scoring drought of almost seven minutes by hitting a foul-line jumper, but the Black Bears responded with seven straight points, including a 3-pointer by Chantel Charles (8 points, 3 assists) that made it 26-8 with 4:22 left in the half.
“I thought that our defensive intensity the first half was pretty good,” Barron said. “We set a pretty high standard in terms of ball pressure and denial, forced them into a lot of late shot-clock situations where they kind of became stagnant.”
UMaine extended its lead to as many as 26 points in the second half.
Sherae Swinson tossed in 13 points to pace Binghamton. Vaneeshia Paulk tallied 10 points and seven rebounds and Stephanie Jensen finished with eight points.
Binghamton shot only 32 percent (16-for-50) from the field overall.
UMaine travels to Hartford on Wednesday.