After being blown out in its last two games by an average of 31.5 points per game, the University of Maine’s youthful women’s basketball team gave a much better account of itself against a talented and veteran University of Rhode Island team on Sunday afternoon at the Augusta Civic Center.
URI was picked to finish second in the Atlantic-10 preseason poll.
But junior forward Marie-Paule Foppossi’s free throw with 20 seconds turned out to be the difference as the Rams held off the Black Bears 45-44.
URI improved to 9-3 while UMaine fell to 2-7 after absorbing its fourth consecutive loss.
UMaine junior guard Anne Simon had an opportunity to force overtime but after she made her first free throw to make it 45-44, she missed her second one with 1.7 seconds left.
The rebound went out of bounds off URI so UMaine had a last chance to win it with 1.4 seconds left.
But sophomore Caroline Bornemann, who had missed all nine of her 3-point attempts on the season, wound up receiving the inbound pass from Alba Orois and missed a desperation 3-point attempt.
Simon made just one of three free throws and the Black Bears’ went only 3-for-7 as a team.
The Black Bears made a valiant comeback in the fourth quarter, using a 9-2 run to erase a 40-33 deficit.
A Simon jump shot, Bornemann’s layup off a Maeve Carroll pass and Carroll’s jumper off a Bornemann feed made it 40-39 with 4:01 remaining.
Dolly Cairns’ basket snapped UMaine’s 6-0 run with 3:15 to go but Simon tied it up with a 3-pointer 13 seconds later.
Carroll had a chance to tie it with 1:56 left but could only make one of two free throws.
Simon made a steal and UMaine eventually called a time-out.
Carroll missed a shot with 48 seconds left and Channell Williams grabbed the rebound.
UMaine eventually had to foul the Rams to regain possession of the ball and Foppossi, who came into the game with a dismal 34.2 percent shooting percentage from the foul line, sank her second free throw after missing badly with her first.
Sophomore guard Cairns paced the Rams with 14 points and she also added two rebounds. Foppossi, a preseason All-Atlantic 10 second team choice, wound up with 12 points, 11 rebounds and four assists and Williams contributed 10 points and seven rebounds.
Reigning A-10 Player of the Year and preseason first team choice Emmanuelle Tahane was held to six points, nine below her average. She grabbed seven rebounds.
Simon had a game-high 18 points and three steals, three rebounds and three assists. Freshman guard Bailey Wilborn had nine points on three 3-pointers.
Carroll was held to seven points, five below her average, but she hauled down 11 rebounds and made four steals.
Orois had five points and a game-high five assists and Bornemann grabbed four rebounds and handed out two assists.
“I couldn‘t be prouder of our team,” UMaine head coach and Augusta native Amy Vachon said after the game to Learfield Sports/WKIT-FM play-by-play man Don Shields. “I didn’t feel we competed in our two previous games. These are the types of games you want to play in.”
She was particularly pleased with her team’s defensive effort, holding a URI team that had been averaging over 71 points per game to 45.
Vachon also insisted that she has a good-shooting team and that her Black Bears will snap out of its funk. The team is shooting 30.6 percent from the floor and 13.7 percent beyond the 3-point arc over its last three games.
UMaine will host Dartmouth College next Sunday at 1 p.m. at the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor.