BANGOR, Maine — University of Maine women’s basketball coach Amy Vachon figured her team left 25 points on the floor in missed layups alone during Wednesday night’s America East quarterfinal game against the undermanned University of New Hampshire.
But it didn’t matter because the top-seeded Black Bears forced 21 turnovers leading to a 25-0 edge in points off turnovers and they parlayed 19 offensive rebounds into a 26-6 advantage in second-chance points en route to a comfortable 69-36 victory at the Cross Insurance Center.
It was UMaine’s 12th straight win and the Black Bears (23-7) play No. 4 Albany (13-17) in Sunday’s 1 p.m. semifinal at Memorial Gym in Orono.
“We came out in the first quarter and played really well with a lot of intensity,” Vachon said. “We didn’t shoot the ball great tonight but we had 19 offensive rebounds and 26 second-chance points which is really great.”
Albany eliminated No. 5 Binghamton 61-56. UMaine won both regular-season meetings against the Great Danes, 76-65 and 67-61.
No. 2 Hartford (22-9) hosts No. 3 Stony Brook (23-7) at 2 p.m. Sunday in the other semifinal.
UMaine scored the game’s first nine points and built a 40-20 halftime lead.
The youthful Wildcats, who dressed only nine players due to injuries, including a foot injury to leading scorer Ashley Storey of Cumberland, wound up 6-24 after absorbing their sixth consecutive setback.
Senior guard Tanesha Sutton, a first-team All-America East selection, poured in a game-high 24 points and also grabbed 12 rebounds and had three steals and two assists to pace the Black Bears. She also went 10-for-10 from the foul line.
League Most Valuable Player and Defensive Player of the Year Blanca Millan provided 19 points, three assists and two steals. Dor Saar had 10 points and four assists to go with three steals.
Fanny Wadling chipped in with nine points and 13 rebounds along with three steals, two blocked shots and two assists.
“Maine has had an incredible season and this was just a really tough matchup for us,” said UNH coach Maureen Magarity. I’m proud of how we competed but we just really struggled to score.”
UNH entered the game averaging 53 points per game which is 342nd among 349 Division I teams.
America East Rookie of the Year Kari Brekke posted 11 points and three rebounds for the Wildcats and Amanda Torres had nine points, six rebounds and two assists. Alli Gribbin notched seven points and five rebounds and Caroline Soucy pulled down nine rebounds.
The 36 points matched a season low for UNH, which shot just 25 percent from the floor.
“Defense is a key for us,” said Saar. “If we play good D, it helps us get easy points in transition.”
The Wildcats also had no answer for Sutton, who scored most of her points on drives to the basket. She went 7-for-13 from the floor.
“I was just really looking to be aggressive,” said Sutton, who explained UMaine has been focusing on its rebounding.
“Coach Amy has emphasized that she wants us crashing the boards hard and I thought we did a great job of it tonight.”
The Black Bears didn’t shoot well, finishing at 35.9 percent from the floor including 25 percent from the 3-point arc.
But they turned the ball over only four times and the 19 offensive rebounds was its second highest total of the season.
Sutton and Millan each had 14 first-half points and the Black Bears forced 12 UNH turnovers and grabbed 12 offensive rebounds over the first 20 minutes which led to several second-chance points.
Sutton’s short fall-away jumper in the paint and her basket off an offensive rebound started game-opening, nine-point run. Millan finished the flurry with a conventional three-point play before converting a Saar feed for another basket.
UNH pulled within 12-5 but the Black Bears rattled off an 8-0 run to extend the lead to 20-5.
UMaine led 22-9 after the first quarter but missed 10 of its first 11 shots in the second period. However, the Wildcats couldn’t take advantage and the Black Bears led 40-20 at halftime.
Sutton had 10 of UMaine’s 12 third-quarter points, including eight free throws, as the Black Bears expanded the lead to 52-27.