Women’s basketball extends winning streak to nine games, knocks off Albany

Women’s Basketball holds off New Hampshire 59-55

Climbing back from a 15-point halftime deficit, the University of New Hampshire (UNH)’s women’s basketball team came back to within two points against Maine, but failed to seal the comeback in the final seconds. After managing to survive the Wildcat’s late resurgence 59-55, the Black Bears won their 17th consecutive game at the Cross Insurance Center on Monday, a streak that dates back to last season. Though they had a solid first half, the Black Bears were outplayed on all levels in the second half and let the Wildcats climb back into the contest.

“We dodged a bullet, so we got lucky,” third-year guard Sigi Koizar said, “especially now towards the end of the season we want to be consistent in our play, because down the stretch it’s important to get everything right.”

With their seventh win in a row, Maine now stands tall at 19-7 on the year, while they hold onto a 10-1 mark within the America East. On the other hand, the Wildcats slip to 8-15 overall and have a 2-8 record within conference play.

In the contest, Maine had a trio of solid players offensively. Fourth-year forward Bella Swan went 8-9 on clutch free throws late in the game to keep Maine ahead. She also accumulated 20 points and seven rebounds. Koizar had another strong day as she grabbed six rebounds, three assists and scored 20 points. Finally, fourth-year forward Mikaela Gustafsson notched four rebounds, four assists and 10 points.

Statistically, UNH played more accurately on their shots. The Wildcats hit 24-51, shooting 47.1 percent from the field. For the Black Bears, they went 20-50, hitting the net on 40 percent of their shots. The biggest difference in the game came from the three-point line. While Maine managed to hit a solid 7-of-15, UNH went only 3-for-15.

In the first quarter, the Black Bears came out strong with a quick layup from Swan. Koizar then hit two three-pointers, a layup and a jump shot for 10 points, as the Black Bears grabbed the early lead. At the end of the first period, Maine stood strong, up 16-8 because of Koizar’s early momentum.

“She’s one of the best,” UNH Assistant Coach Brendan Copes said, “She’s the best perimeter player in our league, she’s one of the best scorers in our league, guarding her, for us, was a priority as a team.”

The Wildcats found a little bit of success in the second period. Second-year center Carlie Pogue stepped up, grabbing seven points for UNH. However, the Wildcats couldn’t find any answers when it came to three-point attempts throughout the half. They went 0-8, allowing Maine to dash ahead 35-20 heading into halftime.

After the half, the Wildcats looked like a brand new team. Pogue hit a quick layup before the team decided to put the quarter in second-year center Morgan Bassett-Smith’s hands. Bassett-Smith hit three layups, a jump shot and the team’s first three-pointer, as UNH fought back. At the end of the period, UNH outscored Maine 15-9. However, the Black Bears still held the diminishing 44-35 lead.

“I thought we played with a level of hesitancy and a lack of urgency,” Head Coach Richard Barron said. “We lost our aggressiveness, when one person does it, it affects the entire team, and it affects the entire rhythm.”

The Wildcats once again were clicking on all cylinders in the final quarter. Fourth-year guard Elizabeth Belanger was unstoppable, hitting two jump shots, a free throw and a pair of three-pointers for 11 points. With her second make from the three-point line, Belanger brought the Wildcats to within two points with just over 30 seconds remaining. With the game on the line, Swan rose to the occasion, hitting two free throws, putting the game out of reach and sealing the win for Maine 59-55.

“I just stayed calm, like I said, I was confident in our team the whole time,” Swan said. “It’s just a matter of putting the ball into the hoop.”

Despite the loss, UNH had some key performers. Belanger was essential to the team’s late rally, and her five rebounds and 21 points helped the Wildcats stay close throughout. Similarly, Pogue recorded six rebounds and 12 points for UNH. At the end of the day, UNH’s inconsistent first half ended up being their hardest obstacle to overcome.

“If we had come roaring out of the gates the way we came roaring out of the locker room in the second half, I think it could be a little bit different,” Copes said.

Black Bears continue streaking after 76-43 win over UMass Lowell

In one of the greatest performances of her career, Koizar put up 32 points for the women’s basketball team Thursday night. Following her dominant game, Maine was able to beat the University of Massachusetts (UMass) Lowell 73-46.

Due to their strong performance on the road, the Black Bears improve to 20-7 on the year, earning their eighth consecutive victory. The conference win also puts them at 11-1 within America East. On the other hand, 29 turnovers led to the River Hawks falling to 4-20 overall, with a bleak 1-11 tally within conference games.

At the end of the day, Koizar was phenomenal for Maine. She went 13-20 on her shots, with a 4-7 mark from the three-point line. In addition to her 32 points, she tallied five assists and five rebounds. Stepping up as the team’s second highest scorer, fourth-year guard Sophie Weckstrom also gave the Black Bears 11 points and three assists.

The Black Bears made the most of their shots as they went 31-65, completing 47.7 percent of their attempts. The River Hawks were slightly lower as they went 19-44, while reaching the net 43.2 percent of the time. Maine also had the upper hand from the three-point line as the Black Bears went 7-15, while the River Hawks hit 6-17. The biggest statistical difference came on turnovers. While Maine forced a season-high 29 turnovers, they gave up a season-low eight of their own.

It took Maine no time to begin dominating, as they took an early 11-0 lead in the first quarter. Gustafsson stepped up, hitting two jump shots and two free throws for six points. Though third-year guard Nicole Hayner managed to sink a three-point shot for the River Hawks at the buzzer, the Black Bears maintained a 15-11 lead after the first period.

For the first five minutes of the second period, Maine’s offense consisted of only Koizar. She gave the Black Bears 13 consecutive points with two three-pointers, two layups, a jump shot and a free throw. Following her dominant quarter, the Black Bears outscored the River Hawks 20-13, giving Maine the 35-24 advantage at the half.

Maine cruised along in the third quarter. Swan and Koizar each put up three layups, giving the team 12 points. Outside of a pair of three-point shots from Hayner, the River Hawks struggled to get anything going, as the Black Bears found themselves up 52-36 with only 10 minutes left in the contest.

With eight points in the early moments of the final period, Koizar put the game out of reach. Though Hayner managed to put up another pair of three-pointers, the River Hawks were too far down on the scoreboard. With a successful three-point attempt from Weckstrom, Maine took a 27-point lead, their largest of the game. With no urgency left, the River Hawks let the clock expire, giving Maine the decisive 73-46 victory.

Despite the loss, the River Hawks had some solid contributors. Hayner went 5-8 from the three-point line, giving her team 15 points. Second-year forward Kayla Gibbs also had an impactful game, as she put up 14 points and nine rebounds.

Maine upends conference heavyweight Albany 65-53

The University of Albany women’s basketball team came marching into the Cross Insurance Center on Sunday riding a 13-game winning streak and in first place of the America East Conference. After a tough 40 minutes, Maine handed them their first loss since December in tune to a 65-53 victory for the Black Bears.

With their ninth consecutive win, the Black Bears now stand at 21-7 on the year, with an impressive 12-1 mark within America East contests. Maine also remains unbeaten at home. On the other hand, the loss puts the Great Danes down to 21-4 on the season, with a 12-1 tally in conference games. During the match, the Black Bears played aggressively throughout.

“There was a difference today in our approach to the game,” Wood said. “I think a lot of times in the past when we approached a big game, we kind of shied away, but today we were really locked in.”

When it came down to shots, Maine played more accurately in every significant category. On all attempts, the Black Bears went 26-53, hitting the net 49.1 percent of the time. The Great Danes went 23-54 on all shots, making 42.6 percent of their attempts. The biggest statistical difference came on three-point shots. While Maine played phenomenal on three-pointers, hitting 13-23, Albany only hit a mere 1-7.

Second-year forward Tiana-jo Carter got the Great Danes on the board first with a layup, but the Black Bears battled back. Koizar gave the Black Bears a three-pointer and a layup, as well as a defensive rebound. In addition, Gustafsson was all around the court, grabbing four rebounds. After a low scoring first quarter, the Black Bears held onto a slim 14-10 lead.

In the second period, third-year guard Imani Tate gave Maine nightmares. With four jump shots and a layup for 10 points, Tate could not be stopped. Fourth-year guard Lauren Bodine however, would not let the Black Bears sink on the scoreboard as she hit a layup and three three-point shots for 11 points. Despite a jump shot from third-year guard Zakiya Saunders in the final few seconds, Maine held onto a 34-30 advantage heading into halftime.

Saunders tied the game up with four quick points to start the third period. Minutes later, she hit a crucial three-point shot for Albany. Despite the Great Dane’s strong start, the Black Bears recovered with nine straight points, including a three-pointer from Weckstrom, which put Maine up by 10. At the end of the quarter, Maine outscored Albany 17-13, giving the Black Bears a 51-43 lead heading into the final 10 minutes.

The Black Bears started the fourth quarter with a successful three-point shot from Koizar. With the game on the line, Wood stepped up for Maine. In the final five minutes, she put up two three-point shots and a jump shot. Wood’s game clinching shots helped the Black Bears hang on to the 65-53 victory.

“What was so impressive to me is the attitude we played this game,” Head Coach Richard Barron said. “The approach that we brought from the beginning, we just embraced it. We played as well as we have all year in this game.”

For Maine, Koizar led the team in scoring with 15 points. She also contributed four assists and four rebounds. Wood gave the Black Bears 14 points, along with six rebounds and three assists. In addition, Bodine went 4-6 from the three-point line, and she ended the night with 14 points.

Despite losing, the Great Danes had some solid performances. Tate ended the game with 22 points, along with four rebounds and two assists. Although Richards was limited to just eight points, she led the game with 11 rebounds. After the loss, Albany’s Head Coach Katie Abrahamson-Henderson acknowledged that every now and then a great team gets defeated.

“We are a four time defending championship team. We get beat, we’ve gotten beat every single year by somebody,” Abrahamson-Henderson said. “Every year, somebody gets us.”

The Black Bears will look to keep the momentum rolling as they head to Stony Brook on Saturday, Feb. 20.

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