The Hartford Hawks found plenty of holes in the University of Maine’s 2-3 matchup zone during the first half of Saturday’s America East women’s basketball game.
The hosts shot a sizzling 56 percent overall and made seven of 12 from the 3-point arc.
The Black Bears adjusted, implementing a player-to-player defense that changed the course of the contest. UMaine held Hartford under 37 percent shooting and helped force 11 turnovers in the second half to register a 68-57 victory at the Chase Family Arena in West Hartford, Connecticut.
“Our defense was really good,” said UMaine head coach Richard Barron. “We played straight man the entire second half because we weren’t getting to their shooters in our zone the first half.”
Sophie Weckstrom made three 3-pointers on her way to a career-high 21 points to spark the Black Bears (9-6, 1-1 AE), who halted a two-game losing streak. The junior guard from Finland went 8-for-13 from the field, including hitting 3 of 6 from long range.
“For me a big part is not thinking about my shot, just playing loose, having fun,” Weckstrom said. “I haven’t really been shooting well lately, so I guess I just had to get out of my own head.”
The Black Bears, who trailed by as many as 12 points late in the first half, outscored the Hawks (8-9, 2-1 AE) 40-22 in the second half to beat Hartford for the second straight time on its home court.
Weckstrom said UMaine simply needed to settle down and relax to find their offensive confidence and cohesiveness.
“I think we’ve just got to play loose,” she said. “It was more like we found the chemistry on the offensive end.”
Weckstrom also provided three assists and two steals for UMaine, which received 17 points and five rebounds from Sigi Koizar. Anna Heise contributed 15 points and four rebounds, while Courtney Anderson of Greene chipped in with five points, four assists, two steals and no turnovers.
Liz Wood was limited to four points, but grabbed five rebounds, handed out six assists and made four steals.
Amber Bepko made four 3-pointers, three in the first half, to pace Hartford with 18 points. Cherelle Moore provided 12 points and six rebounds. Christie Michals and Morgan Lumb added eight points each.
UMaine committed only 12 turnovers and forced several of 18 by the Hawks that led directly to 23 points for the Bears.
“We got some transition points out of some of their turnovers and we handled their full-court pressure without any problems,” Barron said.
The Black Bears outrebounded the hosts 29-25 and allowed only a single second-chance points after giving up only two live-ball offensive rebounds.
The Bears trailed 40-33 early in the second half, but turned the tide with an extended run. UMaine outscored Hartford 15-2 over the next seven minutes.
Koizar and Wood got things started with back-to-back baskets, then Weckstrom stroked a 3-pointer to tie the game at 40 with 15:16 to play.
Two minutes later, Wood and Weckstrom sandwiched hoops around a jumper by Hartford’s Darby Lee to give UMaine the lead for good. The Bears stretched the lead with a 9-0 surge that included four points from Heise.
“Hartford plays really, really hard. They’re well-coached. But our defense was very disruptive in the second half,” Barron said.
Hartford had forged a 12-point lead with sharp first-half shooting. Bepko hit two 3-pointers and a layup to propel a 15-7 run that gave the Hawks a 31-19 advantage with 2:31 left in the half.
However, the Bears used a 7-2 burst to end the period, cutting the deficit to 35-28 at the break.
UMaine returns to action at 7 p.m. Wednesday against UMass Lowell at the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor.