Senior guard Kylie Butler scored 10 of her 12 points over the game’s final 5:44 as the University of Vermont stunned the youthful University of Maine 55-52 in the America East women’s basketball opener for both teams Wednesday night at the Patrick Gymnasium in Burlington, Vermont.
The Catamounts improved to 4-9 overall and ended a seven-game losing streak at the hands of the Black Bears. UMaine suffered its fourth straight loss and fell to 7-9.
UMaine, playing without injured All-America East first team senior guard and leading scorer Sigi Koizar (leg), went 9:49 without a point in the first half, and Vermont outscored the Black Bears 20-3 to erase a 13-3 deficit.
The Black Bears shot 1-for-8 from the floor and turned the ball over 11 times during that 20-3 stretch.
Vermont built an 11-point lead in the second half, but UMaine rallied behind Laia Sole and Julie Brosseau to pull into a 40-40 tie with 6:34 remaining.
Butler’s free throw with 5:44 gave the Catamounts the lead for good at 41-40, and she then nailed a three-pointer before Blanca Millan’s layup cut the lead to 44-42.
Two Butler free throws made it 46-42 with 4:17 left, but Sole answered with a jumper.
Kallie Banker made a free throw and Butler rebounded her free throw miss and laid it in to make it 49-44 with 2:31 remaining.
Sole’s traditional three-point play pulled UMaine within two with 2:18 left before Butler hit two more free throws.
The Black Bears pulled within 53-52 on Brosseau’s three-pointer with 28 seconds left, but Banker hit a free throw and Brosseau missed a three-pointer before a Lauren Handy free throw closed out the scoring.
Sole missed a three-pointer at the buzzer.
Butler’s 12 points paced Vermont. Candice Wright had 11 points, eight rebounds and three blocked shots, and Hanna Crymble had six points and a game-high nine rebounds before fouling out with 2:18 left. Banker contributed six points and six rebounds, and Sydney Smith had five points, four assists and two steals.
Sole had a game-high 21 points for UMaine. She also had five rebounds. Brosseau finished with 15 points on five three-pointers.
Millan chipped in with nine points, eight rebounds and two steals before picking up her fifth foul with 1:58 remaining. Naira Caceres had six rebounds and three assists. Sole, Brosseau, Millan and Caceres are all freshmen. Sophomore Tanesha Sutton had five rebounds and two assists before fouling out with seven minutes remaining.
“I’m disappointed in our effort, I’m disappointed in our execution, I’m disappointed in everything we did today,” said UMaine coach Richard Barron to Learfield play-by-play man Don Shields after the game. “We didn’t play well. But give credit to Vermont. This is a big win for their program.
“They were the more aggressive team. They won, and they deserved to win for that reason. Our kids deserved to lose and deserve to learn from this,” he added. “We’re a defeated team right now. We’ve lost our confidence. We’ve lost our aggressiveness. If we had it, we would have won.”
Barron added that his team’s shot selection was “pretty poor.”
UMaine will host Maryland-Baltimore County at noon Saturday at the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor.