ORONO – With Robert Morris swarming the court and building momentum every possession, it might have been understandable if a young University of Maine team buckled under the full-court pressure.
The Black Bears wavered, but demonstrated their determination and resilience Wednesday night while holding on for a 54-52 women’s basketball victory at Alfond Arena.
Coach Cindy Blodgett’s team (2-4) clicked in all phases of the game while building a 19-point lead, then overcame a valiant comeback by the Colonials (2-4).
“In the past, definitely, if a team came back on us or made that much of a run, we would have just caved in and given up,” said Bears junior Brittany Boser, who provided 12 points and seven assists. “We didn’t do that. We stood our ground and we fought back and we wound up taking the win.”
The Bears committed 13 turnovers after intermission in the face of Robert Morris’ hustling, trapping defense. And the visitors cashed in with numerous transition baskets and got to the foul line frequently.
In spite of its struggles, UMaine refused to relinquish the lead, even after the Colonials had stormed within one point (47-46) with 5:03 to play. The hosts continued to play hard and did enough at both ends to maintain the lead.
“I can’t tell you how pleased I am for them,” Blodgett said. “The team needs that. They need to understand that they are good and they have made great improvements from last season.”
The Bears clung to a 48-47 edge when they broke the press and Boser found freshman Samantha Baranowski open for a short baseline jumper with 2:14 to play. UMaine’s first field goal in nearly seven minutes provided a needed boost.
After two RMU misses, the Bears got the ball back. Kristin Baker of Bingham missed a jumper as the shot clock expired, but the ball went out of bounds off an RMU player.
On the inbounds play, Baker found Samantha Wheeler cutting through the lane for a layup that gave UMaine a five-point lead with 1:02 to play.
The Bears then answered an Angela Pace hoop with two Boser foul shots to ice the win.
Tanna Ross of Newburgh scored 10 of her team-high 14 points in the second half. She hit eight consecutive points (back-to-back 3-pointers and a fall-away from the baseline) during a critical stretch of 1:13 early in the half to counter a 6-0 run by the Colonials.
“Tanna had open shots, she was balanced,” Blodgett said. “She didn’t hesitate, she took them and she knocked them down. That was certainly a crucial run for us.”
Baranowski added 10 points for UMaine, while Baker chipped in with five points, seven rebounds, four assists and two steals in 37 minutes. She committed 10 turnovers.
Monet Johnson led Robert Morris with 18 points, 12 in the second half, and eight rebounds, four steals and three assists. Angela Pace posted 12 points, seven rebounds and four of the Colonials’ 14 steals.
The Colonials, winners of two straight Northeast Conference championships, outrebounded the Bears 40-36, grabbing 21 on the offensive end.
Trailing 31-14, RMU came out in the second half with a sense of urgency. The Colonials pressed full-court, which enabled them to better utilize their quickness and athleticism to attack the basket on offense.
RMU mounted a 26-8 surge that reduced a 19-point deficit to one (47-46) with 5:03 left.
“Any good team, they’re going to make a run,” Blodgett said. “It was sort like a boxing match. We were just taking hit after hit. Luckily, we had a large lead.”
UMaine had built a 17-point halftime lead with its tenacious 1-2-2 matchup zone defense and good offensive execution. The Bears’ zones stymied the Colonials, who shot a dismal 19.4 percent (6-for-31) from the field, including 0-for-9 on 3-pointers.
“I think that allowed our players to really understand they could play with this team and they could beat this team,” Blodgett said of the stellar first-half performance.
Baranowski tallied eight points among eight different players who scored. UMaine kept its turnovers in check (nine) and was able to work the ball to open shooters.
The Bears shot 52.4 percent (11-for-21) from the floor and also outscored the Colonials 9-2 from the foul line.
UMaine slowly manufactured its advantage during a 71/2-minute span with a 16-0 run that made it 20-4 with 8:27 left in the half.
BLACK BEARS 54, COLONIALS 52
Robert Morris (2-4) Maine (2-4)
Player G AG F AF TP Player G AG AF TP
Johnson 7 19 4 9 18 Wheeler 3 4 6
Williams 2 3 0 0 4 Brnowski 3 10
Jones 1 10 0 0 2 Baker 2 7 5
Pace 6 14 0 0 12 Ross 6 13 0 14
Williams 1 10 3 4 5 Tewksbry 1 4
McMillon 0 0 0 0 0 Williams 0 0
Harrison 0 0 0 0 0 Boser 4 5 12
Cnninghm 4 7 2 2 11 Rush 0 2 0
Vails 0 2 0 2 0 Kilmurray 0 1
Bratishko 1 1 2
Totals 21 65 9 17 52 20 42 12 20 54
Robert Morris 14 52
Maine 31 54
3-pt. goals – Robert Morris (1-15): Cunningham 1-1, Johnson 0-4, Jones 0-5, Williams 0-5; Maine (2-7): Ross 2-3, Baker 0-1, Tewksbury 0-2, Rush 0-1
Attendance: 1,371 (tickets issued)