BANGOR — Tanesha Sutton drove in and missed her layup early in the fourth quarter.

No problem for the University of Maine Black Bears.

Fanny Wadling rebounded and dished it out to Paris Rossignol – for another 3-pointer.

The Black Bears bombed away Wednesday night and beat Hartford 78-58 in a key America East Conference game at the Cross Insurance Center.

Maine hit 11 of 26 of their 3-pointers. Four Black Bears hit double figures, led by Sutton’s 24 points (and nine rebounds). Point guard Dor Saar (4-of-7 shooting 3’s) scored 19, and Rossignol (6 of 9) had 18. Blanca Millan added 15 points, and Wadling grabbed 10 rebounds.

“We were ready to shoot the ball,” said Saar, who had six assists. “Good ball movement by the whole team.”

It was not only a rematch of last year’s conference title game – won by Maine – but it also put the Black Bears (18-7, 11-1 America East) in first place over the Hawks (16-9, 9-2).

Maine is in control for top seed in the conference playoffs, and could get home-court advantage throughout the tournament. The conference ditched the neutral court tournament this season, returning to a top-seed format, last used in 1997.

The Black Bears have four games left – at Albany, Stony Brook, at UMass-Lowell and at Binghamton.

Maine split its series with the Hawks, after a 49-46 loss in Hartford on Jan. 16. In that game, the Black Bears fell behind by 11 in the first half, shooting 25 percent.

“We hit shots this time,” Rossignol said.

On Wednesday, Maine shot 41 percent to take a 35-28 halftime lead.

Rossignol hit two of her 3-pointers early in the third quarter, and Maine jumped ahead 47-32. Hartford never got closer than eight points.

“Really happy with how we attacked them offensively and defensively,” Maine Coach Amy Vachon said.

Hartford features the top defense in the league. The only team to score more than 78 against the Hawks was No. 2 Louisville (80 points). Hartford likes to press and then play tenacious defense. But Maine responded.

“We know they’re high-pressure,” Rossignol said. “They get a lot of points off turnovers, so to be able to force them into more turnovers (18) than us (15) was huge.”

Maine moved the ball well – 20 assists on 28 field goals – breaking the press and getting open shots.

“We didn’t play with discipline on either side of the floor,” Hartford Coach Kim McNeil said. “We didn’t play our game. We didn’t do a good job in the half court taking things away from them. If you want to beat them, you have to get stops.”

It was Maine getting the stops, especially with Millan having five blocks and four steals.

Hawks guard Lindsey Abed, who set a conference record with 10 3-pointers in her last game, hit three 3’s and led Hartford with 15.

While Hartford had eight players rotating in and out, Vachon stuck with her starters nearly the whole game (the subs totaled 10 of the team’s 200 minutes).

“I didn’t go to the bench a lot,” Vachon said.

“When our kids are playing well, and playing together, it’s fun to watch.”

Kevin Thomas can be reached at 791-6411 or:

[email protected]

Twitter: @KevinThomasPPH

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