The University of Maine Black Bears’ women’s basketball secured the No. 3 seed in the America Playoffs with a victory over the Binghamton Bearcats 69-65 on Saturday, Feb. 25 during senior day. While UMaine played well at times, they were highly inconsistent from quarter to quarter, which resulted in their inability to put away Binghamton all game.
“We turned the ball over too much,” head coach Amy Vachon said after the game. “I don’t think our defense was great, but I think Binghamton played really well. So I’m happy we were able to win even though I don’t think we played our best.”
The Black Bears entered the contest coming off an 80-67 victory over rivals University of New Hampshire 80-67 with a 14-13 record overall. The Bearcats entered with a 13-15 record and on a five-game losing streak coming off a 67-54 loss to the University of Vermont.
Before the game, the Black Bears honored their four seniors: fourth-year guards Anne Simon, Anna Kahelin, third-year forward Katie White and fourth-year forward Abbe Laurence.
UMaine started the game hot on defense, completely stifling the Bearcats’ offense and not letting a basket through until after the three-minute mark and shot just 4-18 in the quarter. While the Black Bears dominated defensively, their offense struggled to capitalize off of the stops as they turned the ball over six times in the first quarter alone by forcing passes on fast breaks and not taking optimal shots, which gave Binghamton momentum ending the first quarter as it was just 16-12 Black Bears after one.
In the second, both offenses disappeared as both teams struggled to make their baskets and get second chances. UMaine had just one offensive rebound in the second. The Black Bears got some momentum early on after third-year guard Olivia Rockwood hit a three behind the elbow that was immediately followed by a steal by fourth-year guard Anne Simon for the layup to go up by six. Binghamton would not go down easily though. Fourth-year guard Denai Bowman was able to tie the game with her jumper from the free–throw line with just 50 seconds left in the half, though second-year forward Adrianna Smith was able to drive in for a layup with 12 seconds left to give UMaine a 29-27 lead going into the break.
Coming out of halftime, it seemed like the Black Bears’ offense was finally starting to come alive, as they had their best quarter on both sides of the ball. In the quarter, they went 11-14 from the field and made all three-point shots and free throws. Through this, they were able to build their lead to 10 thanks to a strong quarter from Smith, scoring 11 points and only missing one shot. While the Bearcats were able to keep the deficit to eight heading into the fourth, it seemed like all momentum was on the Black Bears’ side.
In the fourth, however, all momentum died offensively for the Black Bears as they went from making all their baskets to not being able to make any baskets, with Smith finally being able to get points on the board for the Black Bears with a layup with four minutes left to go. However, while their offense struggled, their defense played well enough to keep the lead, though Bowman tied the game with a jumper with three and a half minutes left. Neither team could score again until, with just under two minutes to go, Simon found an open third-year forward, Caroline Bornemann, from just outside the elbow for the massive three. With stingy defense and good free-throw shooting, UMaine was able to put the game away from there.
Smith led the Black Bears both offensively and defensively with a double-double scoring 31 points while shooting 11-20 from the field and pulling down 19 rebounds. Simon was second on the team with 18 points, shooting 6-15. Second-year guard Jadyn Weltz led the Bearcats in scoring 23 points while going 6-12, along with three assists and four steals. Bowman was second on the team scoring 17 points while shooting 7-15.
UMaine will open the playoffs as the No. 3 seed and will face off against No. 6, Binghamton, once more on Wednesday, March 1.