From Staff Reports

LOWELL, Mass. — Junior guard Elizabeth Belanger was one rebound shy of a double-double with a game-high  25 points and nine rebounds, but the University of New Hampshire women’s basketball team fell 70-65 to the University of Massachusetts Lowell on Saturday at the Tsongas Center.

UNH drops its overall record to 16-11 on the season and 8-7 in America East play. UML improves to 12-15, 6-9.

Belanger knocked down 11 of 25 attempts from the field and 3 of 6 from 3-point range. Senior guard Ariel Gaston posted 11 points, four assists and three steals. Gaston was flawless from the free throw line, draining all five of her attempts. Sophomore guard Kristen Anderson also turned in 11 points while tallying a pair of steals.

Three River Hawks posted 16 points in the winning effort. Senior guard Shannon Samuels poured in 4 of 9 from the floor and 6 of 9 from the free throw line. Junior forward Lindsey Doucette also logged 4 of 9 shot from the field and made 8 of 9 free throws. Freshman forward Kayla Gibbs rounded out the double-digit scorers for UMass Lowell by knocking down 6 of 9 attempts from the field and making all four of her free throws.

The Wildcats shot 26 of 56 (46.4 percent) from the floor and made 8 of 12 (66.7 percent) free throws. UML connected on 23 of 50 (46.0 percent) attempts from the field and 20 of 24 (83.3 percent) from the charity stripe. UNH controlled the paint, owning the advantage in scoring (40-30) and second-chance points (16-9). New Hampshire edged UMass Lowell in rebounds by a 31-28 margin.

The River Hawks bolted out of the gate with the first seven points, but the Wildcats quickly matched the scoring to start the game. Gibbs broke the tie with a layup as UMass Lowell led 9-7 at the first media timeout.

UNH kept it a one-score game at 11-10 as freshman center Carlie Pogue netted baskets. However, the River Hawks engineered a 7-4 surge. Walton started the UMass Lowell scoring flurry with a layup. Samuels followed with a 3-pointer from the right side. After a Sarah-Marie Frankenberger layup for UNH, Rudolph capped off the run with a field goal to give UML an 18-12 lead with 12:09 remaining in the first half.

Coming out of the second media timeout, Anderson cut UMass Lowell’s lead in half with a triple from the left wing. However, the River Hawks stifled the Wildcats offense and rattled off eight consecutive points to increase their lead to 26-15, highlighted by back-to-back three-point plays from Gibbs and Doucette. Belanger ended the scoring drought with a step-back jumper to narrow UML’s lead to single digits at 26-17 with 8:06 left in the first half.

New Hampshire kept UMass Lowell’s lead to single digits as baskets from Gaston and freshman guard Peyton Booth fell at 5:06 and 3:55 respectively. However, the River Hawks reconstructed their double-digit lead to a game-high 17 points at 38-21, highlighted by a pair of treys from junior guard Melissa Frase. New Hampshire could not slow down the UMass Lowell into halftime as it trailed 42-28.

The Wildcats opened the second half by engineering a 9-2 surge. Senior forward Kaylee Kilpatrick started the UNH scoring barrage with a layup off a turnover. Following a McRoy basket, freshman guard Aliza Simpson muscled in a basket in the paint while fouled. After completing the three-point play, Pogue and Gaston added back-to-back layups to trim UML’s lead down to 44-37. UMass Lowell managed to control the run and traded baskets as the score raised to 51-42 with 12:43 left in the second half.

Belanger cut the host’s lead down to five as she drained a pair of layups. Kilpatrick tacked on another layup to pull within three at 51-48 with 10:40 showing on the clock.

The two sides traded the eight points to up the score to 55-52. UNH managed to tie the score at the 55-mark for the first time in the game with a free throw by Gaston followed by a floater from Anderson with 6:20 remaining in regulation.

UMass Lowell would not relinquish the lead as it strung together eight straight points to lead 63-55 with 3:16 on the clock. Gibbs broke the deadlock with a layup. The River Hawks forced a turnover on the next two Wildcat possession as Samuels made the basket on both fastbreaks.

Belanger snapped the 8-0 run as she knocked down a triple from the top of the arc, but the River Hawks preserved its eight-point edge with free throws made from Doucette and Samuels entering the final minute of play.

New Hampshire concludes the regular season against rival University of Maine on Sunday, March 1 (2 p.m.) at Lundholm Gymnasium. The game against the Black Bears will be available on ESPN3 and the WatchESPN app. UNH will then move onto the first round of the America East Championships, hosted by Binghamton University starting Saturday, March 7.