By SAM ROGERS
Senior Elizabeth Belanger reached the 1,000-point milestone and set a career best in rebounding against the University of Pennsylvania on Sunday to help spark a brief Wildcats’ comeback. The effort was too little, too late, unfortunately, and UNH dropped its first game of the season, 67-60. The loss moves the Wildcats’ record to 3-1.
Belanger led the ‘Cats with 21 points and 13 rebounds for her second consecutive double-double. Sophomore Carlie Pogue and senior Corinne Coia chipped in 12 and 11 points, respectively.
Early turnovers and sloppy play have been a theme for the Wildcats in their first few games, and Sunday’s matchup was no different. UNH started the game with two unforced turnovers and struggled to put points on the board. Pogue led the Wildcats in scoring during the first frame, notching six points, but UPenn jumped out to an early lead.
“The first half we were getting a lot of looks and we just weren’t finishing,” UNH head coach Maureen Magarity said. “We were breaking their pressure fine, and we were running our offense fine, we just (couldn’t score).”
The offensive woes continued for the Wildcats in the second quarter and they only tallied eight points in a 10-minute period. The game remained close for the majority of the quarter, but the Quakers went on a 9-0 scoring run and ended the half up 15 points, the score at 34-19.
Facing the 15-point deficit heading into the final half, the Wildcats needed to mount a comeback against a very solid Penn team. UNH cleaned up their turnover issues and played a more complete style of basketball, but they found themselves down 11 heading into the final quarter of play.
“It felt like it was going to be a double-digit loss and Elizabeth (Belanger) made some huge plays,” Magarity said.
Belanger scored seven of her team-high 21 points in the fourth quarter, but no points were bigger than her 3-pointer with 6:25 remaining. The shot cut Penn’s lead to five and it also gave Belanger her 1,000th career point.
“I couldn’t have done it without my teammates throughout these four years,” Belanger said of her milestone accomplishment.
“You can’t have her come off the floor,” Magarity said of her star player. Magarity added that she was “proud” of the senior co-captain’s accomplishment.
Belanger, keeping her head in the game, didn’t know how close to the milestone she was until sinking the important 3-pointer.
“The crowd went crazy and I just assumed it was that shot,” she said.
“Once we collected ourselves, and gathered ourselves we knew we could make it and attack them,” Belanger continued, speaking about her team’s comeback attempt.
But big shots, tight defensive play, and a career milestone couldn’t give the Wildcats enough to pull of a miracle in their non-conference game. The Wildcats drew to within a handful of points late in the game, but UPenn sank free throws to seal the Quakers’ win.
The Wildcats drop to 0-2 in the all-time series matchup against the University of Pennsylvania.
Belanger was definitely disappointed in the loss but she feels if her team can come out like they did in the second half, they’ll be a dangerous contender in America East.
“We can beat all the tough teams in our league,” she said of the resilient performance.
The Wildcats are back in action Tuesday, Nov. 24 at 7 p.m. in the Lundholm Gymnasium against Manhattan College.
Belanger’s milestone can’t lift ‘Cats over UPenn
By SAM ROGERS