SMITHFIELD, Rhode Island — The University of Maine women’s basketball team had made 25 3-point field goals in its last three games before Saturday afternoon’s non-conference game at Bryant University.
It turns out it was just the beginning.
Coach Richard Barron’s Black Bears came out firing from long distance and shot 54.8 percent from beyond the arc for the game to score a 77-52 win over the Bulldogs at the Chace Athletic Center.
The win was the third straight for UMaine, now 6-5 and headed to Florida for the University of Miami Holiday Tournament. The Black Bears play East Tennessee State at 3 p.m. Monday and either Miami or Coppin State on Tuesday.
The loss was the sixth in the last seven games for Bryant (4-6).
Senior guard Sigi Koizar led Maine to its highest scoring output of the season with 20 points, including the 1,400th of her career. Koizar made eight of her 14 field-goal attempts and also contributed five rebounds. Tanesha Sutton posted 12 points, six assists and six rebounds and Blanca Millan scored 11 points, including three 3-pointers.
Julie Brosseau added eight points for the Black Bears, including two 3-pointers, and UMaine also got a late boost from 6-foot-2 freshman Tihana Stojsavljevic, who scored seven points in eight minutes to help the Black Bears hold off a second-half Bryant comeback.
Sydney Holloway led Bryant of the Northeast Conference with 16 points while Alex Klein had 11 points and five rebounds.
UMaine, which connected on 12 of 22 3-point tries for the game, made nine of its 16 first-half attempts from beyond the arc to build a 45-25 lead — nailing six 3-pointers in the first quarter alone en route to a 28-16 advantage.
“It was a great first half for us,” Barron told Don Shields of Learfield. “We shot the ball very well, especially in that first quarter. Twenty-eight points is a lot of points in a quarter, and I’m very happy with that.”
The Black Bears also induced 15 Bryant turnovers before the break and outscored the Bulldogs 25-0 on points off turnovers during the game’s first 20 minutes.
Bryant held a 14-10 lead after a 3-pointer by Kierra Palmer with 4:44 left in the first quarter before UMaine used its long-range shooting to score 15 unanswered points and take the lead for good.
Koizar started the run with a layup before Sutton hit a 3-pointer to give Maine a 15-14 edge. Sutton then made a layup and Laia Sole converted a jumper before Millan and Naira Caceres each scored from beyond the arc to extend the Black Bears’ cushion to 25-14 with 1:06 left in the opening period.
Haley Connors finally answered for Bryant with a layup, but Brosseau hit UMaine’s sixth 3-pointer in the game’s first 10 minutes to give the Black Bears their 12-point lead at the end of the period.
The UMaine run grew to 20-2 as Koizar went inside to score 19 seconds into the second period.
A Holloway layup kept Bryant within 32-22 midway through the second quarter before UMaine scored 13 unanswered points to take a 45-22 lead on a layup by Millan with 1:25 left in the half.
The 3-pointer also figured prominently in this run, with Brosseau, Millan and Koizar all connecting from beyond the arc.
A late 3-pointer by Chanel Ramcharren pulled Bryant within 20 by intermission.
UMaine couldn’t maintain its 3-point volume after intermission, and Bryant gradually climbed back into the contest — pulling within 58-48 on a 3-pointer by Stephanie Lesko with 7:56 left in the game.
“I was not happy with our energy coming out after halftime,” said Barron. “We knew that this was a team that was going to play with pride and they came out and cut it to 10. They were on a big run and outscored us by seven in the third quarter. I was disappointed with our intensity and I thought they brought it, Bryant did.”
But UMaine altered its lineup and regained control with 14 unanswered points.
First Koizar drove for a three-point play, then Brosseau hit a jumper to make it 63-48 before Stojsavljevic buried a 3-pointer and another jumper to extend UMaine’s lead back to 20 at 68-48 with 5:03 left.
Koizar added two free throws and Sutton converted a layup to push UMaine’s cushion to 72-48 with 3:58 remaining.
“We made some substitutions and I thought Tihana had obviously her best game,” said Barron. “Even though she brought four fouls along with it she brought some intensity we were looking for. That inspired us and we ended up having a big fourth quarter.
“The kid’s going to be special,” added Barron of Stojsavljevic. “She’s got a lot to learn and a lot to develop and we’re going to be patient with her as she does it, but she really has a lot of upside.”