For the second straight season, the USM women’s basketball team was defeated in their season opener by the UNE Nor’Easters, this time by a score of 89-79.
UNE junior guard Kelley Paradis scored a career-high 30 points on 12-18 shooting from the field to help the Nor’Easters secure their first win of the season.
The Nor’Easters have won their last two meetings against the Huskies after losing 35 of their first 36 of the team’s matchups.
The first half proved to be an even one, as both teams went back and forth taking advantage of scoring opportunities.
With 15 minutes left to play in the half, UNE went on a scoring run that featured 3-pointers by Paradis, senior Carrie Bunnell, and sophomore Liz LeBlanc in a two minute span to give them a 16-11 lead.
The Huskies fought back to take the lead with a little less than nine minutes to play when senior guard Kaylie DeMillo (Jay) — who led USM with 17 points — drained a 3-pointer to give USM a 24-22 lead.
UNE would take advantage of USM fouls toward the end of the half as they followed through on six of eight free throws. Bunnell sunk another 3-pointer and Paradis scored six of her 13 first half points in the final six minutes to help her team earn a 37-36 lead at the half.
The second half started in the Huskies favor as they fought back to tie the score at 40 at the 18:15 mark, on a jumper by junior forward Courtney Cochran (Waite) and a layup by junior Renee Nicholas (Sebago). USM would take the lead less than a minute later when Nicholas got one of her four steals and dished it off to Cochran for a layup that made the score 42-40.
USM would hold onto the lead for the next 7 1/2 minutes until the Nor’Easters took it back when senior gaurd Kari Pelletier made a 3-pointer to make the score 62-60 with ten minutes left to play.
The experienced UNE team showed their poise in a close-game situation as they held the Huskies to 11 points over the next five minutes, while they scored 16 to increase their lead to 78-71 with 5:03 left to play. The run was highlighted by mid-range jump shots from senior April Mroz and Paradis, and another 3-pointer from LeBlanc.
The Huskies made a run of their own when they cut the UNE lead to two, making the score 79-77 with 2:54 left. The effort wasn’t enough though as two jumpers from bunnell and a 3-point play by Paradis sealed the deal.
Bunnell finished the game with 17 points and five rebounds, and LeBlanc had 13 points to go along with five rebounds as well. Russell finished with ten points and a team-high eight rebounds and Mroz contributed with nine points.
Nicholas turned in a solid game with 16 points, four steals, and three rebounds, while freshman Lauren Rousseau (Biddeford) scored 12 on 5-9 shooting from the field and 2-4 shooting from 3-point range.
USM showed a bit of indecision in the opener, but that comes with first game jitters according to USM Head Coach Gary Fifield.
“The difference was that they executed in the stretch like a veteran team – they have all but one starter back from last year – and we executed like a young team.”
The Nor’Easter’s shot 55.6 percent from 3-point range and 56 percent from the field on the game. Bunnell went 3-3 from the beyond the arc, while LeBlanc went 4-8, and Paradis went 2-5.
“We made some foolish fouls there at the end of the first half that didn’t help us,” Fifield said. “We need to figure out how to stop teams. You can’t score 79 points and lose.”
The Huskies will get their chance to improve when they face UMaine Farmington in the USM Tipoff Classic tonight in Gorham at 7:30 p.m. They will travel to Lewsiston on Tuesday to take on Bates College in a 5:30 p.m. start.