GORHAM – Here’s the depressing thing about dealing with the University of Southern Maine women’s basketball team. You play relatively well defensively. You bottle them up inside. You maintain a tight grip on the tempo. And you’re still down by a dozen at the half.

Megan Myles promptly doubled that by dropping four 3-pointers in the first eight minutes of the second half Saturday night, and the University of Southern Maine cruised to a 72-42 NCAA Division III second round tournament win over Norwich at Hill Gymnasium.

Senior tri-captain Myles led No. 1 Southern Maine with 24 points. Junior Ashley Marble added 23 points and eight rebounds. Marble and Myles combined for 29 in the second half to transform a 31-19 defensive struggle into a rout.

“I start every game with a mindset to just play a solid game all the way around,” said Myles. “If the shots are going in, they’re going in. If not, I’ve got to do other things to set up my teammates.”

Southern Maine (29-1) extended its winning streak to 20 games and prevailed for the 49th consecutive time at home. USM will meet Bridgewater (Va.) in the Round of 16 on Friday night.

Bowdoin will play in the other game of that sectional, and there is a strong chance that the Huskies will host. The NCAA officially will announce sites and game times today.

Sarah Chap led Norwich (25-5) with 14 points. Kristi Powlovich poured in 10 for the Cadets, who won their first NCAA tournament game ever by beating the University of Maine at Farmington here Friday night.

USM forced 19 Norwich turnovers and shut out the Cadets’ leading scorer on the season, senior guard Allison Flynn, on 0-for-9 shooting.

“I thought defensively we did a pretty good job,” said Norwich coach Steve Lanpher. “We thought if we could keep (the deficit) to single digits at halftime, we would have a chance. Obviously we didn’t quite do that, and then No. 33 (Myles) hit a bunch of big shots.”

Norwich and USM entered the game No. 1 and No. 2 in the nation, respectively, in scoring defense.

There was no panic in the Southern Maine camp after the Huskies struggled to a 10-for-32 start from the field.

“We were up 12 and we could have been up 20 if a few of those shots had fallen,” said USM coach Gary Fifield. “There was no reason to be frustrated.”

USM raced to a 10-2 lead and then maintained control of a sluggish first half for both teams. The Huskies endured more than seven minutes without a field goal in one stretch. Norwich exceeded that with a 10-minute dry spell.

Defense and 3-point proficiency punched the Huskies’ ticket on a night when their customary domination of the paint took a while to materialize.

Four different Huskies knocked down a 3-pointer in the first seven minutes. Donna Cowing drained her second with 8:56 remaining in the half to give USM a 23-11 advantage.

Thought often outshined by Southern Maine’s prolific frontcourt, guards Cowing and Katie Sibley again were indispensable for the Huskies. They combined for eight assists and nine rebounds.

“You would have to put Donna in the dentist’s chair to get her to talk about herself,” said Fifield, “but what she brings is a lot of energy at both ends of the floor.”

Plus, with two steals apiece and five combined offensive rebounds in the first half, Marble and Myles did their usual part to keep the Cadets’ backs to the basket.

Myles’ offensive explosion provided most of the power in a 24-6 surge that finished Norwich.

“We wanted to come out strong to start the second half,” Myles said. “I got some open shots, and fortunately I was able to hit them.”

USM went 10-for-18 from 3-point range (including 5-of-6 after the break) and 18-for-23 from the free-throw line.

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