DURHAM, NH -- The University of Maine women's basketball team (16-13, 10-6 America East) locked up the #4 seed in the America East postseason tournament after it defeated New Hampshire (18-11, 12-4 AE) 66-62 on Saturday afternoon.
Clutch free throw shooting and rebounding down the stretch locked up the victory for the Black Bears who were led by Ashleigh Roberts' (Wilmington, Del.) 17 points and nine rebounds. Liz Wood (Catlett, Va.) chipped in 16 points, seven rebounds and two steals while Lauren Bodine (Louisville, Ky.) and Mikaela Gustafsson (Sodertalje, Sweden) each tallied eight points.
The Black Bears put together a 23-for-55 (41.8-percent) effort from the floor, including a 11-for-18 mark from 3-point range while outrebounding the Wildcats 38-33. The win was Maine's first against New Hampshire since 2010.
New Hampshire was led by senior Kelsey Hogan's 21 point effort.
Neither team could find success on the offensive end in the early going as the score remained tied at 4-4 over six minutes into the first half.
The Black Bears broke out of the offensive rut first as they put together a 13-2 run. Mikaela Gustafsson (Sodertalje, Sweden) started the run with a short jumper follow by a slash through the lane for two by Wood. After a New Hampshire make, Gustafsson, Lauren Bodine (Louisville, Ky.) and Courtney Anderson (Greene, Maine) knocked down three-straight 3-point field goals as the Black Bears took a 13-4 edge at the 11-minute mark.
The Wildcats answered the charge but eight points on three-straight possessions from Wood gave Maine its largest lead of the half, 23-12, with just under eight minutes to play in the half.
New Hampshire began to chip away at the Maine lead, going on a 7-2 run to whittle the lead down to six. The Wildcats kept charging as a 5-0 run cut the Black Bears' advantage to 28-24.
Maine ended the half strong, answering with a 5-0 run all off Bodine makes, to take a 33-24 lead into the break.
New Hampshire came out of the halftime break charging as it quickly used a 8-3 run to bring the Maine lead down to four. However, Roberts and Wood each knocked down shots from beyond the arc to advance the Maine lead back to 10.
There was no quit in the Wildcats are a 10-2 New Hampshire run cut the Maine advantage all the way down to a pair before Anna Heise (Halle, Germany) quieted the run with a 3-pointer from the left wing.
Holding onto a two-point advantage, Maine broke out a clutch 10-2 run to force its lead back to double-digits. Wood worked inside to create a 3-point play off a make and a foul. After a New Hampshire hoop, Maine held the Wildcats scoreless over a three minute span as Gustafsson knocked down Maine's 11th 3-pointer of the afternoon to start the sprint. Four fastbreak layups from Roberts followed as the Black Bears's lead grew to 57-47 with under four minutes to play.
New Hampshire worked its way back into the game with a late 15-6 run to cut the Black Bears' lead all the way down to 63-62 with under a minute to play. However, a pair of clutch free throws from Roberts built the Maine lead back to three. Off a missed free throw, the Wildcats sprinted down court as Kelsey Hogan launched an open three which was off the mark. Wood grabbed the clutch rebound for the Black Bears. Maine would lock up its ninth America East league victory with a free throw from Cherrish Wallace (Pasadena, Calif.) to defeat New Hampshire in Durham for the first time since 2010 by a score of 66-62.
Maine will now travel to the America East tournament in Albany, N.Y. where it will play in the 4/5 game against the Hartford Hawks on Friday, March 7 at 8 PM. Maine and Hartford split on the season with each team winning on the road. Stay tuned to GoBlackBears.com for all postseason news and updates.