BANGOR, Maine — After a forgettable first half in which they allowed 43 points to Albany and found themselves trailing by 11, the University of Maine Black Bears outscored the Great Danes 52-28 in the second half and went on to post an 84-71 America East women’s basketball victory at the Cross Insurance Center on Sunday.
Freshman forward Blanca Millan scored a career-high 26 points, including 16 in the second half, fellow freshman Spaniard Laia Sole tied her career-high with 21 points and senior guard Sigi Koizar had 14 points as UMaine improved to 11-11 overall and 4-3 in America East. Albany fell to 9-10 and 3-3, respectively.
The teams met in last year’s America East title game with Albany winning 59-58.
Millan also had four steals and three assists, Sole had a game-high six assists and also grabbed six rebounds and Koizar had a team-high seven rebounds, five assists and five steals. Sophomore guard Tanesha Sutton chipped in 11 points, five assists and four rebounds.
Senior guard Amani Tate poured in 32 points and pulled down eight rebounds, both game-highs, to pace the Great Danes. Senior forward Jessica Fequiere added 14 points and five rebounds.
The Great Danes shot an impressive 60.7 percent from the floor (17-for-28) and 66.7 percent (6-9) from beyond the 3-point arc in the first half but UMaine held them to 33.3 percent shooting (9-27) in the second half and limited them to just two 3-point attempts which they missed.
UMaine shot 60 percent in the second half (18-30) after a 48.1 percent performance in the first half (13-27) and forced 11 second-half turnovers which resulted in an 18-4 edge in points off turnovers. UMaine also went 7-of-11 from beyond the 3-point arc.
“I was so proud of the girls and how they came out in the second half,” said UMaine associate head coach Amy Vachon, who is filling in while head coach Richard Barron remains on medical leave.
“That first half, defensively, was not us. We gave up 43 points after giving up 50 in the whole game at UNH,” said Vachon referring to Thursday’s 50-44 loss.
“We definitely came out with more intensity in the second half and had better help (on the ball) so whenever somebody got beat, we had someone else there to contend the shot,” said Koizar. “We also locked in into what they were looking for and we took that away. In the first half, we lost their shooters a lot and, in the second half, we knew we had to get out on their shooters.”
First-year Albany coach Joanna Bernabei-McNamee said “the second half was real frustrating. Our intensity faltered on the defensive end and, reboundingwise, we didn’t crash the boards.”
UMaine used a 17-4 run in the third quarter, capped by Koizar’s 3-pointer off an inbounds pass from Sutton, to take a 49-47 lead.
The Black Bears broke the game open with an 13-0 run in the fourth quarter as Millan nailed back-to-back 3-pointers after she had fed Koizar for a 12-foot baseline jumper to trigger the flurry. Fanny Wadling fed Sole underneath for a basket and Koizar finished off the run with a 3-pointer from the top of the key.
“They pulled it together and hit some great threes in the second half and we didn’t have an answer for it,” said Albany’s Tate. “We forced shots and didn’t drive to the basket.”
“We were aggressive defensively in the second half and our offense was better because of it,” said Millan. “We executed our offense perfectly and, because of that, I was in key spots I was supposed to be in to score from.”