DURHAM, N.H. – Candace Williams (Norfolk, Mass.) and Amy Simpson (Waterford, Conn.) tallied 18 and 17 points, respectively, to lead the University of New Hampshire women’s basketball team in a win over the University of Maine, 51-47, to open America East action on Tuesday evening at Lundholm Gymnasium.
The Wildcats improve to 3-11 and start off at 1-0 in conference play, while the Black Bears fall to 2-12, including 0-1 in the America East.
New Hampshire, down by three at the half (26-23), opened up the second half on an 11-2 run to take a six point lead (34-28) with 11:42 remaining. The Wildcats earned their largest lead of the game, 11 points (42-31), on a 3-pointer by Simpson at 9:30.
The Black Bears, however, chipped away at the home team’s advantage and made it a one-possession game, 44-41, with just over five minutes remaining. Simpson, who finished with five treys, hit with a trifecta to extend the Wildcats lead to six points, 47-41, with 4:32 remaining.
The visitors made another run at it, getting within two points, 47-45, on a basket by Samantha Wheeler with 2:21 left to play. Once again, Simpson hit a shot to make it a two-possession game, 49-45, with 1:44 remaining in regulation.
Though Maine got within two points with 27 ticks left on the clock, solid free throw shooting by Williams shut the door on the visiting Black Bears. Williams went 4-for-4 from the charity stripe on the night. The Wildcats held Maine to just 20 percent (6-30) shooting from the floor in the final frame.
The first half was a back-and-fourth affair as the two teams exchanged leads four times during the opening stanza. Abigail LaRosa (Hampton, N.H.) hit a free throw to earn either teams largest lead of the first half, 16-11, with 8:47 left in the half.
Three straight points by the Black Bears got the visitors within two points, 16-14, but Simpson hit a trey to put the Wildcats up by five once again, 19-14, with 7:12 left in the half.
The Black Bears then hit back-to-back trifectas to take a 20-19 lead with 5:39 remaining, but Williams converted on the hoop and the harm to put the Wildcats back on top, 22-20, with just under four minutes left in the half. Maine closed out the half on a 6-1 run to take a 26-23 lead into the locker room.
Kristin Baker led the Black Bears during the first half of action with nine points and totaled a team-high 11 in the game. Williams, who marked her 14th straight game in double figures to open the 2008-09 season, led the Wildcats with 10 first-half points.
Wheeler and Brittany Boser also scored in double-figures for the Black Bears with 10 points apiece.
Racheal Fowler (Glassboro, N.J.) led the team in rebounding with season-high 11 boards, including seven in the final frame. Simpson, who was selected as the America East Player of the Game for the Wildcats, finished the game with a season-high four blocks, which tied her career-high. LaRosa chipped in with seven points for the Wildcats, while freshman Lauren Wells (West Chester, Pa.) had five points and five boards.
The Wildcats will travel to face UMBC on Saturday, Jan. 10. New Hampshire will return home to host intra-state rival Dartmouth on Tuesday, Jan. 13.