DURHAM, N.H. - The New Hampshire Wildcats came all the way back from a 25-point first half deficit to take the lead with under three seconds remaining, but a controversial three-pointer by Erika Messam as time ran out gave the Hartford Hawks a 61-60 victory Wednesday evening at Lundholm Gymnasium.
Down by 22 early in the second half, the Wildcats used a full court press to throw the Hawks off their game and start the comeback. Sophomore Ray Williams (Mississauga, Ontario) scored ten consecutive Wildcat points in a three and a half minute span, then the rest of the team started hitting their shots to bring UNH back within seven points.
Hartford was able to go back up by 13 points with 6:31 remaining in the game, but then UNH scored 13 unanswered points to tie the game at 56 with 1:42 left. Messam hit a jumper, followed by a jumper by Williams, to tie the game again with just a minute remaining.
Whitney Edwards (Mount Vernon, N.Y.) earned her seventh steal of the night when she took the ball from Tanika Price with 35 seconds remaining. After missing her first chance, Lindsay Adams (Theresa, N.Y.) hit a jumper from about 12 feet to give the Wildcats their first lead since early in the first half at 60-58.
With 2.8 seconds left, Hartford inbounded the ball and eventually got it to Messam on the right wing behind the three-point line. The shot, which was released just as the buzzer went off, was the only three-pointer the Hawks made in the second half after going 5-of-7 from the three-point line in the first half.
Both teams got off to hot starts, as UNH took a 10-8 lead four minutes into the game. A combination of hot shooting and stifling defense allowed Hartford to go on a 29-2 run over the next 12 minutes to take a 25-point lead. The Wildcats recovered at the end of the first half, outscoring the Hawks 8-1 to go into the locker room down 38-20 at halftime.
It was a tale of two halves for Hartford (16-6, 10-3 America East), who shot 63.6 percent from the field in the first half and only 36 percent from the field in the second half. UNH went the other way, hitting 50 percent of its second half attempts after making only 33.3 percent in the first half. Both teams had problems holding onto the ball, with Hartford committing 24 turnovers and UNH committing 20 turnovers.
Williams hit 10-of-15 shots from the field to lead all players with a career-high 20 points, plus she pulled down nine rebounds. Besides her career-high seven steals, Edwards scored 13 points, grabbed eight rebounds, and dished out four assists.
After not making a field goal in the first half, Adams and Ebony Woods (Philadelphia, Pa.) each finished with ten points and two steals. Woods assisted on three baskets while Adams notched two assists in the game.
Messam shot 6-of-12 from the field, including 3-of-4 from the three-point line, to score a team-high 16 points. Danielle Hood came off the bench to score 14 points and pull down nine rebounds, while Jenna Gale contributed nine points and nine rebounds to the winning effort.
New Hampshire (11-11, 7-6 America East) must recover from this loss in time to face the Vermont Catamounts Saturday afternoon at noon at Lundholm Gymnasium. The Catamounts defeated Albany Wednesday night to move into a tie for third place with the Wildcats, making this game a key one for positioning as the season winds down.