GORHAM – Neither the law of averages nor the scouting report from Bridgewater College’s first two NCAA Division III women’s basketball tournament games allowed the University of Southern Maine much comfort Friday night.

No lead is safe against the Eagles, who kept on chucking until the horn that heralded the No. 1 Huskies’ 68-55 victory in the Round of 16 before a sold-out crowd of 2,000 at Hill Gymnasium.

Ashley Marble scored 15 of her 21 points in the second half for Southern Maine (30-1), which led by 23 shortly after the break. Megan Myles dropped in 12 points, Katie Frost added 11 and Shannon Kynoch brought 10 off the bench.

Next up, after a sigh of relief and a few hours of tossing and turning, is a rematch with in-state rival Bowdoin for a possible return trip to the Final Four. USM beat Bowdoin, 64-55, on Nov. 29. It is the only game the Huskies have won by less than a double-digit margin all season.

“It’s definitely going to be an exciting game and something we want,” said Myles, a senior from Auburn who added seven rebounds, four assists and three steals.

Marsha Kinder led unranked Bridgewater with 17 points. The senior and former Division I player swished three of the Virginia school’s five 3-pointers. Shannon Scales contributed 13 and Katy Herr had 11 for the Eagles (24-7).

Bridgewater rallied from a seven-point deficit in overtime to eliminate Bates in a first-round game last Friday. After misfiring at a 1-for-13 clip from beyond the arc in the first half against USM, the Eagles buried three 3-pointers in a late two-minute span to punctuate a 15-4 run and give the Huskies their closest game since before Christmas.

“When I looked at the stat sheet at halftime, it made me a little nervous, because you knew they were going to keep shooting and you knew they weren’t going to go 1-for-13 again,” said USM coach Gary Fifield. “I guess you have to start defending them at half-court.”

The flurry was more cosmetic surgery on the one-sided score than a real threat to Southern Maine, thanks to a stifling defensive effort, inside and out, for most of the evening. Bridgewater went 6-for-30 from the floor overall in the first half and saw an 11-10 lead turn into a 34-16 halftime deficit.

Herr’s hoop with 3:50 remaining in the half interrupted an 18-3 USM surge, but it represented the only Bridgewater field goal in the final 11:53.

Myles scored 10 points in the half, including a 14-footer from the right baseline off a steal by Donna Cowing that gave the Huskies the lead for keeps.

“They have a nice balance to their offense,” said Bridgewater coach Jean Willi.

How about the defense, Coach?

“Certainly it was a credit to us shooting 20 percent in the first half,” she said. “Even with that, I never felt like we still could not win. We were going to battle to the end.”

For all the fear Bridgewater inspired from downtown, Southern Maine won the 3-point battle. The Huskies sank six, including four in the first half.

And with Bridgewater buckling down up top to start the second half, Marble made hay underneath the basket. She scored Southern Maine’s first four buckets of the session, including a traditional 3-point play to give the Huskies their healthiest advantage of the night, 41-18, with 17:04 to go.

Myles fed Frost’s third 3-pointer of the evening, making it 61-40 with 6:17 left and turning most everyone’s thoughts to tonight’s de facto state championship.

“Bowdoin does what Bowdoin does,” Fifield said. “They run their offense very well. All their players know their roles. They’re a very good team.”

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