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Black Bears look for answers after abysmal showing against Highlanders

It has not been a good week for the University of Maine Black Bears women’s basketball team as they lost their third straight game in a week to the New Jersey Institute of Technology Highlanders in a 56-54 upset victory for the Highlanders.

“NJIT played well. They made their shots, and we didn’t,” Head Coach Amy Vachon said after the game. “We just need to defend better.”

UMaine entered Saturday’s game with a 12-11 record overall and an 8-3 conference record sitting at third in standings but were coming off back-to-back losses to UMBC and rival UVM. NJIT entered with a 7-16 record with a 6-5 conference record, coming off a loss to UMBC. The two teams faced off previously on Jan. 7, where UMaine won 69-63.

Right from the beginning of the first, the Black Bears struggled offensively, scoring a mere eight points while going 3-13 from the field and 0-3 from the three in the first, missing opportunities left and right. The only players to score for the Black Bears were second-year forward Adriana Smith, who shot 1-5, and second-year guard Paula Gallego, who shot 2-3.

The one saving grace for UMaine was the Highlanders were just as inept as them for most of the game, committing three travels and a shot clock violation. However, after a timeout, their offense finally woke up. They scored 16 points while going 7-11 shooting from the field, thanks to a big performance by first-year guard Alejandra Zuniga, who went a perfect 4-4 from the field and 2-2 from the three helping give NJIT a 16-8 after one. 

In the second, the Black Bears finally started their offense thanks to Smith making shots down low to cut into the lead. However, NJIT was not going quietly as, for the most part, they were able to match the Black Bears blow for blow. However, just past the halfway point, Gallego made a layup that swung the momentum in the Black Bears’ favor resulting in a 10-0 run thanks to two three-pointers from third-year forward Caroline Bornemann, gaining the Black Bears back the lead, which they maintained taking a 29-24 lead at the half.

After finishing strong in the third, all momentum died for UMaine. In a quarter in which neither team scored for almost four minutes, the Black Bears shot an atrocious 2-13 from the field and scored a mere six points. While the Highlanders were not much better, as they only had 11 points, they made their shots count as they went 5-12 from the field, tying it up at 35 entering the final quarter.

In the fourth, both offenses finally came alive; however, UMaine did not make good shot selections, as multiple shots ended up being airballs or entirely off-target. The Highlanders started off the quarter on a 12-5 run giving them the 47-40 lead. However, the Black Bears would not go down quietly, thanks to a Rockwood three-pointer from way downtown with 38 seconds left to cut the lead to three. However, the Highlanders made both free throws after UMaine fouled. While the Black Bears were able to cut the lead to three and got the ball back with 10 seconds left, however, NJIT intentionally fouled. While Bornemann had a chance to send it to overtime with a three, her shot came up short, resulting in Smith being fouled with 0.1 seconds left, ending the game for UMaine.

UMaine did not shoot the ball well, going 21-55 from the field and 5-17 from the three-point line. Smith led the team in scoring with 23 points but shot 9-21 from the field. After a strong first quarter, the Black Bears held Zuniga to 16 points. However, the rest of the offense compensated for it, leading to four players having double-digit points.

UMaine will look to get back on track as they face off against arch-rivals the University of New Hampshire today at noon.

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