Sunday’s women’s basketball game was supposed to be an intriguing battle between the defending America East tournament champion and preseason favorite Stony Brook Seawolves and defending regular season title winner the University of Maine.
But Stony Brook came out in cruise control, scoring the game’s first 14 points and building the lead to as many as 21 in the second quarter at the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor.
Despite being overmatched, the Black Bears were able to claw their way back to within eight early in the fourth quarter before back-to-back 3-pointers by Leighah-Amori Wool enabled the Seawolves to pull away for a 63-44 victory.
Stony Brook upset UMaine 64-60 in Orono in last season’s tourney final.
The much more experienced Seawolves, 11-2 overall and 2-1 in the conference, were superior in every aspect of the game. UMaine’s first nine possessions yielded six missed shots and three turnovers by sophomore forward Caroline Bornemann.
Wool opened the scoring with a nice inside move and Anastasia Warren converted her steal into a layup before India Pagan scored a pair of baskets in the paint. Gigi Gonzalez’s steal and layup, Warren’s baseline drive and McKenzie Bushee’s putback off an offensive rebound capped the 14-0 run before two Alba Orois free throws with 4:55 left in the first quarter supplied the Black Bears with their first two points.
“We came out with high intensity and we were really focused to start the game,” said Stony Brook first-year coach Ashley Langford, whose team led 21-5 after the first quarter.
UMaine has now been outscored in the first quarter of its last four games at the Cross Center 64-25, losing three of the four.
“The last games we’ve played at home, we’ve always struggled to come out hard,” said UMaine junior guard and scoring leader Anne Simon. “We haven’t been great in the first five minutes and we have to change it. You can’t go down by 20 in the first quarter because it’s not going to work against a team like them.”
Warren’s 15 points and four rebounds paced Stony Brook. Pagan had 13 points and eight rebounds, Wool added 12 points and five rebounds and Gonzalez and Earlette Scott had eight points apiece. Gonzalez also had five assists, five rebounds and four steals.
Simon’s 14 points, three rebounds and two steals led the Black Bears (5-9, 2-2). Orois had nine points and five assists. Olivia Rockwood and Smith each had six points and two assists with Smith also corralling five rebounds.
Langford said she expected the Black Bears to make a run like they did when they used a 12-2 flurry to close out the third quarter to pull within nine.
“We were able to weather the storm which I expected from a pretty veteran group that we have,” she said.
Stony Brook led 21-5 after the first period and expanded the lead to 21 points with 3:33 left in the first half.
Over the last 3:33 of the half, sophomore point guard Orois was the only starter on the floor along with freshmen Adrianna Smith, Bailey Wilborn, Sera Hodgson and Penelope Castillo.
Stony Brook took a 33-14 lead into the intermission but the same UMaine quintet started the second half and rattled off the first five points, prompting a timeout by Langford.
“Our younger kids did a really nice job,” said UMaine coach Amy Vachon.
Trailing 42-23 with 3:56 remaining in the third period, UMaine went on a 12-2 run with Simon scoring seven points, Bornemann hitting a three and Orois capping the spurt with a pair of free throws.
Rockwood’s 3-pointer with 9:27 left in the game made it 46-38 but Wool canned a three off a Scott rebound and pass and added another following a UMaine turnover.
“I think that definitely changed the momentum of the game,” said Wool, who recently eclipsed the 1,000-point mark for her college career.
Stony Brook outrebounded UMaine 46-26.
“You win the glass, you win the game,” Langford said.
UMaine hosts New Hampshire on Thursday at 7 p.m.