Wins have proven tough to come by this season for the University of Maine women’s basketball team, one of the difficult realities of America East play. The Black Bears came into Saturday night’s game against Stony Brook University riding high, however, having just pulled off a 65-61 comeback conference win on the road against the University of New Hampshire.
UMaine battled hard against the Seawolves and held as much as a six-point lead in the first half, taking a 27-26 lead into the locker room at halftime. However, defensive intensity by Stony Brook in the second half and a few ill-timed errors by the Black Bears sealed their fate, as they dropped a back-and-forth conference battle 64-59 at Alfond Arena.
In a game that featured seven ties and 10 lead changes, turnovers proved to be the Black Bears Achilles’ heel, committing 28 to Stony Brook’s 15. The Seawolves capitalized, scoring 26 points off of UMaine’s turnovers.
The Black Bears held a 55-52 lead with just under two and a half minutes to play, but Stony Brook was able to finish the game on a 12-4 run, thanks in large part to their clutch free throw shooting. The Seawolves shot 81 percent as a team from the line, compared to just 61.5 from the Black Bears.
Despite the loss, UMaine led in almost every statistical category outside of turnovers and free throw percentage. The Black Bears shot an outstanding 50 percent from the floor in the game, and played solid defense, holding Stony Brook to under 40 percent shooting.
The Black Bears were led by senior guard Kristen Baker, who poured in a team-high 17 points, along with five rebounds, five assists, and two steals. Her only blemish on the night was a team-high six turnovers. Sophomore forward Samantha Wheeler and senior forward Katia Bratishko also scored in double figures, contributing 14 points and 12 points, respectively. Senior guard Amanda Tewksbury tied for the team lead in rebounds with Wheeler and Bratishko, with all three tallying seven apiece.
“We beat ourselves in so many ways; decision making was poor, not from just one person, all the way through,” UMaine coach Cindy Blodgett said. “Passes that were ill-advised, shots that were ill-advised”
Blodgett made a point to focus on culpability as a group, not placing blame on individuals, and was quick to point out her team’s drive and passion for the game
“On the flip side, having 28 turnovers and only losing by five points speaks to the effort that my team played with,” she said.
Another bright spot for the young Maine team was the return of freshman guard Katelyn Vanderhoff, who added a little desperately needed depth to an already thin team that lost sophomore guard Jasmine Rush to injury during pre-game warm-ups. Vanderhoff, an immediate contributor this season from the outset, has missed over three weeks with an illness. The freshman from Lititz, Penn., provided a spark for the Black Bears in the game, contributing 14 minutes off the bench in the second half and contributing four points, three assists, a block and a rebound during that time.
The Black Bears also look forward to the promising return of guard and forward Tanna Ross. The prolific scorer from Hampden Academy has been out all year with injury.
With the loss, the Black Bears drop to 5-12 overall and 1-4 in conference play, while Stony Brook improves to 4-13 and 2-3 in America East.
UMaine travels to take on conference powerhouse Hartford on Monday, January 18 and returns home to battle Binghamton on Thursday, Jan. 21 at 7 p.m.