ORONO, Maine — It was the Anne Simon Show at the Memorial Gym on Tuesday night.
The graduate student guard erupted for 21 points in the second half as the Black Bears pulled away in the second half for a 59-48 win over Atlantic-10 Conference preseason favorite the University of Rhode Island.
Simon scored all of UMaine’s 15 points during a 15-4 run spanning the end of the third period and early in the third period to give the Black Bears a 47-40 lead.
And the Rams couldn’t get any closer than five the rest of the way.
The Black Bears used a 6-2 run midway through the fourth quarter to take a 57-46 lead with Simon scoring the final two baskets to all but sew up the win.
Simon finished with 25 points, five rebounds and three assists to pace the 3-1 Black Bears. Adrianna Smith added 14 points, 10 rebounds, eight assists and two blocked shots.
Caroline Bornemann had eight points and five rebounds for the Black Bears.
Maye Toure’s 15 points and nine rebounds led 2-1 URI. Sophie Phillips had nine points and Teisha Hyman produced nine points and eight rebounds.
“I didn’t shoot the ball well in the beginning and I was obviously frustrated. But my teammates kept telling me to shoot the next one,” said Simon, who shot just 2-for-8 in the first half before going 8-for-11 in the second half including a 3-for-4 showing from beyond the 3-point arc.
“I know I can make threes, I know I can make shots,” Simon added. “So I just kept shooting. They trusted me and if I didn’t make the shots, they were getting offensive rebounds to get us another chance.”
It was the third consecutive game the Black Bears held its opponent to 48 points. URI had averaged 84.5 points in its previous two wins.
“We focused on defense. We said we were going to do that this year,” said Smith. “That’s exactly what we did. We held them to about half of their usual points and that means a lot for us.
“I’m proud of our team. I knew we could do this,” she said.
URI shot just 28.6 percent from the floor and made just one of its 22 3-pointers.
The Black Bears, who almost always play a man-to-man defense, unveiled a 3-2 zone and it worked nicely against the much taller Rams featuring 6-foot-5 Tenin Magassa and 6-2 Toure, a preseason first team All-Atlantic 10 selection.
“We were tough,” said UMaine head coach Amy Vachon. “We knew we had a huge challenge ahead of us. Rhode Island is a fantastic team. We knew we had to change some things up. We played that zone and I thought we did a really nice job with that.
“We battled. It wasn’t perfect and Rhode Island missed a lot of shots, too,” added Vachon. “To beat a team like that, you have to get a little lucky, too.”
URI head coach Tammi Reiss said all the credit goes to Maine.
”They outworked us. They showed up with more energy, ready to play. Blue collar. They deserved that win. They earned that win,” Reiss said. “The zone really threw our kids off. It rushed our kids. They never calmed down. They were completely out of sorts.
She called Simon a “great player. She had a good half. Everything she threw up was going to go in.”
Simon scored the Black Bears’ last 10 points of the third quarter as they outscored URI 10-4 to transform a 36-32 deficit into a 42-40 lead entering the final quarter.
Simon nailed a pair of 3-pointers and a reverse layup before stealing a pass and going the length of the court for a layup.
The Rams used a 6-2 run late in the half to take its biggest lead of the game at 26-21 but Smith sandwiched a pair of baskets, including a nifty reverse layup, around a free throw by URI’s Hawa Komara to slice the lead to 27-25 at the break.
Smith, who was held scoreless in a 63-43 loss at URI a year ago, had 12 points in the first half including a pair of 3-pointers, just the third and fourth of her career. She also had four rebounds and three assists.
Simon, who missed last year’s game with a sprained ankle, had four first-half points and the only Black Bear with more than two points was Hodgson, who hit a 3-pointer.
Hyman and Davis had six points each for the Rams and Toure had five. Hyman also had six rebounds.
UMaine shot 35.5 percent in the first half and was 3-for-10 beyond the 3-point arc.
URI was 31.4 percent and 1-for-13 from long distance.
UMaine outrebounded URI 23-21 despite its starting lineup averaging two inches smaller than URI’s.
UMaine will travel to Des Moines, Iowa to play three games in three days at Drake University on Nov. 24-25-26. The Black Bears will face Richmond, Louisiana Tech and Drake.
URI visits Brown on Friday.