Coming off of their fifth straight victory, the University of Maine women’s basketball team welcomed the State University of New York at Albany to The Pit. The matchup featured two of America East’s top teams, with UMaine sitting at third seed with a 11-10 record and Albany at the second seed with a 16-6 record.
Early on in the matchup, Albany looked to have the upper hand. A quick three pointer and a score off of a Black Bear turnover put UMaine down 5-0, but first-year guard Paula Gallego put two easy buckets under the basket to close the gap to one point at 5-4. From there on out, third-year guard Anne Simon and second-year guard Alba Orois were critical in orchestrating the offense for the home side, while Albany’s second-year guard Kayla Cooper caught fire from midrange.
While UMaine’s defense, led by fifth-year forward Maeve Carroll, was halting a majority of Albany’s shot attempts from falling, their inability to corral rebounds on the defensive glass led to a multitude of second chance opportunities for Albany. Thankfully, Albany gathered only two points off of their ferocity on the offensive boards, a nod to the excellent recovery defense head coach Amy Vachon’s Black Bears put on display.
With the first half coming to a close, Simon started her own battle against Cooper, trading buckets up and down the court. A big two from Simon capped off a 6-0 UMaine run and gave the Black Bears the lead at 21-20. The score also cemented Simon as one of only 22 individuals to have ever scored 1,000 points in a UMaine jersey, an accomplishment that warranted a rousing applause from the Orono faithful.
Cooper was the centerpiece for Albany’s offensive output, slicing her way through the UMaine defense on two consecutive possessions, culminating in an unreal no-look layup thrown behind her head to regain the lead for Albany with less than a minute to go in the first half. The Black Bears did not let Albany have the last laugh though, when Carroll’s steal found Orois at the top of the key, where she calmly drained her only three pointer of the night to beat the buzzer and push UMaine’s lead at halftime to four, 31-27.
The second half started off like the first with Albany coming out swinging, tying the game at 31. Second-year UMaine forward Caroline Bornemann did not let the game get away that easy though, nailing one of her two threes of the night to give UMaine a three-point advantage. After the sides traded buckets down low, Orois hit a three-pointer from deep to ignite the atmosphere at The Pit. Orois responded by finishing consecutive lay-ups on great dribble moves, before capping the third quarter off with a phenomenal spin-move into space to beat the buzzer with a lay-in to get UMaine’s back in the lead again, 45-43.
Orois put her distribution skills on display in the fourth, finding Gallego on multiple occasions down low and setting up Simon for critical buckets down the stretch. Bornemann put in her fair share as well, hitting a clutch three and a mid range shot to keep Albany at bay.
Again, Orois delivered the highlight play, driving to the hoop and running through an Albany defender, finishing her lay-up and earning a critical and-one for her squad with a little over a minute to go. With UMaine’s defense continuing to stifle Albany’s shooters, Simon made the most of her opportunity and nailed a corner three with less than a minute on the clock to go, extending their lead to seven, 62-55, as Albany called their final timeout.
On an ensuing foul, Albany missed both of their free throw attempts, allowing UMaine to run out the clock and put a bow on their sixth straight victory. The result was huge for the team and a great all-around effort, with every member of the Black Bears’ starting five finishing the game in double figures. UMaine’s next home game will be against the University of Hartford on Wednesday Feb. 16 at 7 p.m.