After opening up the second half of conference play with a win, the Wildcats travelled to the University of Maine Monday night. Despite outscoring the Blackbears in the second half, UNH dropped the rivalry matchup 59-55.
Another slow start plagued UNH, which only scored eight points in the first quarter. The Wildcats saw themselves trailing 16-8 after ten minutes. Maine had another breakout quarter, scoring 19 points in the second. UNH could only tally 12 points and the team trailed 35-20 at half.
Going into the third quarter, the ‘Cats had to overcome one of this season’s unfortunate trends: playing an entire second half. In the first half of the season, the Wildcats often came out of halftime in a funk. They wouldn’t score and would let teams back in the games they led, or fall even farther behind if they were losing.
Behind senior Elizabeth Belanger, this third quarter was different.
UNH came out of the gates with a vengeance, outscoring Maine 15-9 in the third quarter. Assistant coach Brendan Copes, who is still overseeing coaching duties, was pleased in his team’s second half effort.
“I feel that we did a much better job of taking care of the ball and really attacking the gaps in their zone in the second half,” said Copes.
Belanger led the way in scoring, dropping 21 points in 39 minutes of playing time. Sophomore Aliza Simpson added 11 assists in 38 minutes on the court. Although the two guards played a key role in UNH’s game, the forwards were the dominant factor in Monday’s game plan.
“Maine doesn’t have a front court on the same level as ours so the plan was to pound them inside and our four posts (Storey, Pogue, Spoto and Bassett-Smith) were outstanding finishing at the rim tonight,” said Copes.
Sophomores Carlie Pougue and Morgan Bassett-Smith led the way in the paint, combining for 20 points and seven rebounds.
The Wildcats found themselves down nine points heading into the final frame. Even though they outscored Maine 20-15, they dropped this America East matchup by four points.
The ‘Cats won’t keep their heads low after this loss. The whole season they’ve prided themselves on being positive, bringing the energy everyday and working hard. Even after a conference loss to Maine, they still look to turn some heads in their upcoming games.
“I think if anything, the look they had in the locker room after tonight’s game told me they are hungry to prove something,” said Copes.
The Wildcats will have to go the rest of the year without co-captain Corinne Coia, whose knee injury is serious enough that she won’t return. The team will now look to Elizabeth Belanger, who has been the leader on and off the court all year.
With a matchup against conference leader Albany on Thursday, Copes made it clear: The Wildcats need to play a complete game to match Albany. He also made it known that both the guards and the forwards need to play well to be give UNH a shot.
UNH takes on Albany Thursday at 12 p.m. and the Wildcats are back in Durham on Sunday Feb. 14 against Stony Brook.