By GREG LAUDANI
The UNH women’s basketball team dropped its fifth straight game as the Wildcats fell in a 63-60 upset to the University of Vermont on Wednesday night at Lundholm Gymnasium. UNH falls to 14-10 overall and 6-6 in America East play.
The Big 3 of Elizabeth Belanger, Kaylee Kilpatrick and Carlie Pogue paced the Wildcats. Belanger led all scorers with 25 points, along with four rebounds and as many assists. Kilpatrick and Pogue netted 13 points each in the loss.
UVM (5-19, 2-10 AE) countered with its own trio that collected double-digit point totals. Kayla Burchill and Katie Lavelle added 13 points apiece, while Kylie Atwood scored 11.
This game was tight throughout, and especially down the stretch. With less than 20 seconds left, the Wildcats found themselves down, 63-57. Belanger decided to take it herself, making it 63-60 after hitting a layup in traffic and sinking a free throw following a defensive foul.
After UVM missed two free throws following an intentional UNH foul to stop the clock, head coach Maureen Magarity called timeout to draw up a play to tie the game. With 7.9 seconds to go, Ariel Gaston found Belanger for a three-point attempt, but the shot bounced off the back iron.
“I got a good look, but it just didn’t fall,” Belanger said. “Hopefully it will next time.”
Following a disappointing loss to a team with an inferior record, Magarity said that hustle ultimately decided the game.
“Overall I think they just outworked us,” Magarity said. “They outhustled us with all the little things they did. They got every 50-50 ball and they got big rebounds and steals down the stretch to put them in position to finish the game.”
UVM made more of those “little plays” on Wednesday night than UNH. The Catamounts outrebounded the Wildcats, 43-35, and really took charge on the offensive glass. The Catamounts grabbed 13 offensive rebounds and scored 13 points from those extra opportunities. UNH tallied six on the offensive boards and scored just four points off of those chances.
Belanger spoke after the game about the need for her team to do a better job of making hustle plays and getting second-chance looks at the basket.
“In terms of getting a win, we need to come up with those little plays,” Belanger said. “We need to get loose balls, get rebounds and make all the little plays that make the difference.
UNH led at halftime, 33-31, as they shot 46.2 percent (12-26) from the field in the first frame. Meanwhile, UVM made just 11 of its first 30 field goals (36.7 percent). The Catamounts relied on their three-point shooting, as they sank five of 14 (35.7 percent) from downtown in the first half.
The game stayed tight until the very end, as the teams went back and forth all night. The Catamounts’ largest lead was six points, while UNH only led by as much as five.
The game’s closeness seemed to be even more frustrating in the Wildcats’ loss. They were only one possession away from extending the game. Magarity spoke postgame about how the Wildcats continue to search for ways to get out of their five-game slump.
“We’re at the point now where we just have to find a way to win a game,” Magarity said. “Everybody’s confidence is down right now because it has been a long time since we won a game. But I just think the way our season is right now, if you look at our wins and losses, we’re just a very inconsistent team.”
When asked about the ups and downs of the season, Magarity referred all the way back to the first day of practice, when UNH lost standout Corinne Coia for the season due to injury. Magarity spoke about the team’s inconsistency starting from the day Coia went down. And according to the coach, it all comes down to effort.
“When your best player goes down the first day of practice, you don’t know how teams are going to react,” Magarity said. “I thought we responded really well at first. But for whatever reason now we’re kind of falling apart and it’s just an overall effort thing right now.”
UNH gets another chance to snap its losing streak on the road at conference rival Binghamton University on Saturday, Feb. 14 at 2 p.m.
Despite the positive and negative swings her team has experienced this season, Belanger is not riding the roller coaster. She said her focus now is simply on trying to beat Binghamton.
“Every day is a new day and we have to attack it one game at a time,” Belanger said. “We need to look forward to playing Binghamton on Saturday and taking it step by step. Anything can happen.”