AUGUSTA — The University of Maine and Stony Brook are two of the best defensive women’s basketball teams in the America East Conference, although neither played like it in the first half of Sunday afternoon’s game at the Augusta Civic Center.

“We knew it was going to be a hard game, and we knew we weren’t playing our best game in the first half,” Maine’s Blanca Millan said.

In the second half, the Black Bears figured things out defensively. After surrendering 43 points to the Seawolves in the first half, Maine held Stony Brook to 18 in the second, pulling away for a 71-61 win.

Maine is now 20-7, and 13-1 in conference play. The Black Bears close the regular season with road games at UMass-Lowell and Binghamton, and they can clinch the top seed in the America East tournament with wins. Stony Brook (20-7, 9-5) can clinch the three seed with a win at Maryland-Baltimore County.

Down 43-41 at the half, the Black Bears took the lead for good on a Millan free throw, 46-45, with 5:53 left in the third quarter. With 3:08 left in the game, Tanesha Sutton’s 3-pointer pushed Maine’s lead to 12, 70-58. The shot gave Sutton a team-high 28 points, a career best. Sutton set the mark shooting 11 of 16 from the field. She also grabbed 11 rebounds, five offensive.

“My team was looking to get me the ball in the post. It was really just a team effort,” Sutton said.

In the first half, Stony Brook shot 52.8 percent, and led by as many as seven points, 24-17, with 1:54 left in the first quarter. Maine closed the first half with a 5-0 run to cut the Seawolves lead at the break.

“For us, a lot of times it’s just being focused and locked in on what we want to do,” Maine coach Amy Vachon said. “They’re really good players. They’re going to make shots, but if we can make them work for those shots …”

Stony Brook made just eight of 28 field goals in the second half. After scoring 21 points in the first half, Shania Johnson, Stony Brook’s 5-foot-1 but lightning-quick guard, was held to seven points in the second half to finish with 28.

Added Vachon: “(Johnson’s) just a really good player. We just tried to make her take hard shots. In the first half, I felt like she was getting open shots, and she’s going to make them.”

University of Maine head coach Amy Vachon speaks with her players Sunday during a break from playing Stony Brook at the Augusta Civic Center. Kennebec Journal photo by Andy Molloy

Getting Millan more involved with the offense was another key to the Black Bears’ second-half turnaround. America East’s leading scorer, Millan had just five points at the half on 2 for 8 shooting. She finished with 18 points, shooting 6 for 10 in the second half while driving to the basket and attacking the rim.

“We just looked for opportunities for (Millan) to drive. Driving from the top is a really good spot for her. I think she was more focused on getting to the rim. Her three wasn’t going today,” Vachon said.

Point guard Dor Saar scored 15 points for Maine, to go with four assists. Fanny Wadling grabbed 16 rebounds for the Black Bears.

“Sutton was having a great first half, as well as Dor Saar. They were kind of going with those two with the hot hand. That’s just the sign of a good team. They have different players who can step up at different times,” Stony Brook coach Caroline McCoombs said.

This was the Black Bears first game at the Augusta Civic Center since 2008. The announced attendance was 1,008. The Black Bears didn’t mind playing a home game 75 miles from their usual home, Bangor’s Cross Insurance Center. A concert scheduled for tonight made the Cross Insurance Center unavailable.

“It’s still Maine, so we got a lot of people coming to our game. They were great out there again. It’s different, because we love playing at the Cross, but it was still good,” Millan said.

“It was really good to come down an hour away and have fans come and support us — fans who come to every game, and fans that probably can’t because they live here or in Portland,” Sutton said. “It felt good to play in this environment. The crowd was into it.”

 

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242
[email protected]
Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM 

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