On a night when they were honoring the Star Wars series, The Force was with University of Maine juniors Maeve Carroll and Dor Saar on Friday night at the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor.
The struggling Black Bears women’s basketball team rallied to stun perennial NCAA tournament team Green Bay 61-60 in a battle of injury-ravaged teams.
UMaine began the game with nine healthy players and five out with injuries, while Green Bay had eight players dressed and lost two more to injuries during the contest.
The Black Bears (4-8) erased an eight-point deficit in the final two minutes and won it on Carroll’s 12-foot jump shot from the corner off an Anne Simon pass as time expired.
“They had two players on Dor and were all over Annie when she went in. They had left me open the whole game. Anne kicked it to me and I never second-guessed it. I went for it,” said Carroll who celebrated as the shot swished through the cylinder.
“I had so much adrenaline. It was awesome,” smiled Carroll.
Dor Saar, UMaine’s only healthy returning starter off last year’s team, finished with a game- and career-high 30 points and Simon had a career-high 17 for the Black Bears, who snapped a five-game losing streak against Division I opponents.
UMaine lost by 31 points at Green Bay a year ago and were decided underdogs against a team that has averaged 28.6 wins over the last 10 seasons while making eight NCAA tournament appearances in that span.
Saar also provided two assists and two steals while freshman Simon added six rebounds and three assists. Carroll grabbed a team-high seven rebounds to go with five points. Kelly Fogarty contributed seven points and five rebounds and Anna Kahelin contributed six rebounds and three assists along with two points.
Karly Murphy’s 15 points, seven rebounds and two assists paced Green Bay. Lyndsey Robson added 14 points, three rebounds and two assists and Frankie Wurtz chipped in with 12 points, three steals and two rebounds.
The 5-5 Phoenix finished the game with only five available players after one fouled out.
When Wurtz sank two free throws with 5.5 seconds left to make it 60-59 and UMaine out of timeouts, it appeared as though the Phoenix were going to prevail.
The Phoenix double-teamed Saar after she received the inbounds pass and she dribbled quickly up the court before finding Simon at the top of the key. Simon fired it across to the left corner to Carroll, who didn’t waste any time releasing her game-winning shot.
“Everybody was screaming ‘shoot the ball’,” said Simon. “I saw Maeve and then I looked at the clock and saw we still had enough time [to get the shot off].”
“Their point guard [Saar] had a real good night. We weren’t going to let her get one off,” said redshirt senior guard Wurtz, whose layup had given Green Bay a 58-50 lead with 2:16 left.
Saar made two free throws to cut it to 58-52 with 1:59 to go and, following a Phoenix turnover, Saar was fouled going to the basket and sank two more free throws to make it 58-54 with 1:36 left.
Another Green Bay turnover gave the ball back to UMaine and Fogarty hit a 3-pointer after faking a shot to get separation from a defender.
Simon drew a foul and connected twice from the foul line with 11 seconds left to give UMaine its first lead since the second quarter.
Wurtz answered before Carroll decided it.
“Credit to them,” Wurtz said. “They forced us into some turnovers and they hit some big shots down the stretch. Their point guard shot really well.”
“We got stops and we converted on the other end,” said UMaine coach Amy Vachon. “This was a great win. Green Bay has a great history and they’re a real good team again this year. Their [previous] losses were to ranked teams or teams who get votes for the top 25.
Saar came into the game shooting just 27.7 percent from the floor and 27.2 percent from the 3-point arc. On Friday, she went 9-for-14 and 8-for-10, respectively. Her eight 3-pointers tied the school record against Division I opponents.
“I know I haven’t shot well lately but I knew it was going to happen and I’m glad it happened today,” Saar said. “I got a lot of [open] looks because my teammates found me.”
The Black Bears played one of their best periods of the season in the opening quarter, building a 21-10 lead behind Saar’s four 3-pointers and Simon’s six points.
But the much taller Phoenix turned the tables on UMaine in the second quarter, rattling off the first nine points en route to an 18-3 advantage that helped build a 28-24 halftime lead.
Green Bay led by eight on two occasions in the third period and twice more in the fourth but could not hold on.