The University of Maine women’s basketball team continued their losing ways on Sunday afternoon at Alfond Arena, as the Black Bears fell 67-65 to Binghamton. Bearcats junior guard Stephanie Jensen buried a 3 pointer with just over a minute left that proved to be the difference for the Binghamton, as the Black Bears blew two scoring opportunities after that. The Black Bears endured their 14th straight loss after squandering a nine-point halftime lead that allowed the Bearcats to steal the momentum in the second half.
“We had a very poor defensive effort in the second half, and that’s what lost us the game,” said UMaine coach Richard Barron. “It was the same problem over and over again: easily correctable mistakes. But we chose not to [fix them], and we lost.”
The Black Bears were able to get up early against Binghamton — something they had not been able to do during this unprecedented losing streak. UMaine was down, 6-4 with 16 minutes remaining in the first, but found continuity and reeled off a 16-0 run over 8 minutes after going down. The Black Bear run was keyed by a balanced attack from both inside and outside.
The offense got rolling with great post play from sophomore Danielle Walczak and senior Corinne Wellington. Walczak got the ball at the top of the key and backed her defender down before sealing her off for an easy lay-in to put the Black Bears up 9-6 at the 13-minute mark. The ability to find success in the paint helped the Black Bears, as they were then able to find open shots from the outside.
Freshman guards Liz Wood and Sophie Weckstrom benefited from the open looks and connected on 3 pointers while Wellington nailed a baby hook in the lane to give UMaine the 18-6 advantage halfway through the first.
“Our offensive execution in the first half was excellent, and we were doing what we have been trying to do all year,” Barron said. “We had some nice ball reversals and found good shots.”
The UMaine lead at one point stood at 24-8 with just over 7 minutes remaining in the half, but Binghamton hung tough and crept back into things. Sophomore Sherae Swinson picked up 6 points in the closing minutes of the first to help the Bearcats close the gap to 9 at halftime.
“They came out ready play in that first half and made some tough shots,” Bearcats coach Nicole Scholl said. “Thankfully our kids were able to answer back, and we got back to working on some of the details.”
UMaine shot an impressive 50 percent from the field in the first, including going 4-7 from behind the arc.
Walczak got the Black Bears started again with four quick points in the opening minutes of the second to hold the 9 point lead at 37-28. The Black Bears seemed to lose their continuity and momentum when Weckstrom picked up her third foul, early in the second, forcing her to the bench.
Weckstrom was the only true point guard the Black Bears had available for the game, as sophomore point Courtney Anderson was out with an injury. Without another true point, it was increasingly difficult to get things going on the offensive end, according to Barron.
“We talked a lot before the game about how important it was to keep Sophie out of foul trouble,” Barron said. “Regardless of that, we still needed better production in her absence.”
While UMaine’s offense sputtered, Binghamton found their stroke, developed a balanced attack of their own on the offensive end and climbed back into the game. Swinson and Jensen stuck back-to-back 3 pointers to cut the Black Bear lead down to 39-37 with just over 15 minutes to play.
The Black Bears would grab the lead back as Wood and Bodine combined for 11 points over the next 7 minutes to make it an eight-point lead with less than 8 minutes remaining. Binghamton stormed back with as two lay-ins from senior forward Kara Elofson and freshman guard Kim Albrecht highlighted an eight-point swing to give the Bearcats a 57-56 lead.
After Bodine and Jensen traded 3 pointers, Albrecht nailed a wide open jumper from the corner to knot things at 62-62. UMaine tried to change defensive schemes to tailor to where Binghamton’s offense was coming from, but the Bearcats were able to adjust to the changes and find the scoring chances from all over the court.
“Kim and Steph are very confident shooters against the zone and Kara is excellent around the rim. Having all that working created a really nice balance for us down the stretch,” Scholl said.
“We didn’t execute what we were trying to do, defensively,” Barron added. “They may not have had an answer for what we were asking our kids to do, but we just didn’t do it.”
Elofson scored off a second chance opportunity to break the tie, but Bodine quickly answered to put UMaine ahead by one. The Bearcats would seal things on the next trip down when Jensen took a pass from the wing to the top of the key and drilled a 3 pointer from well beyond the arc to give Binghamton a 67-65 lead. UMaine had two opportunities in the post in the closing minute, but were unable to convert on either.
Wood led all scorers with a career-high 20 points and added nine rebounds and six assists to pace the Black Bear offense. Bodine added 15 points, while Walczak produced 12 of her own.
The Bearcats had four players in double figures: 15 for Jensen, 13 for Elofson, 13 for Swinson, and 12 for Albrecht.
Sunday’s heartbreaking loss comes days after the Black Bears fell victim to a blowout loss to Boston University Wednesday night. UMaine went down early to the Terriers and could not climb back, eventually suffering an 85-54 loss.
The Black Bears shot just 2-21 from 3-point range in the contest and were unable to work the ball inside or convert on turnovers. UMaine was stifled by the offensive prowess of the Terriers, who were able to score at will from anywhere on the court.
Wood led UMaine again in that contest with 14 points, while junior guard Ashleigh Roberts chipped in 10.
Senior guard and reigning America East player of the year Chantell Alford led BU with a game-high 21 points, with junior forward Whitney Turner and senior point Mo Moran adding 13 each.
UMaine — 1-17, 0-5 in America East — will once again try to get back in the win column when they travel to Vermont for a conference tilt, Jan. 23 at 7 p.m.