DURHAM, N.H. — It may have been better to play poorly Sunday than later in the week, but that wasn’t much consolation to the University of Maine women’s basketball team.

The Black Bears watched their 14-game winning streak come to a halt at Lundholm Gymnasium at the University of New Hampshire on Sunday. The Wildcats built a lead at the half and never allowed Maine to counter in a 61-47 win in the regular-season finale.

Instead of going into the conference tourney on a roll, the Black Bears must regroup instead. 

“I don’t think it ever helps you to have a bad performance,” Maine coach Richard Barron said. “I think we have to learn from it and take what happened to turn it into a positive. “

The Black Bears hadn’t lost since early January and the winning streak had included an 87-56 win against UNH in Orono. Maine struggled offensively in the rematch and couldn’t make the defensive stops when needed.

“We didn’t have what we’ve had in that 14-game winning streak,” Barron said. “Mentally, we didn’t play a smart game in terms of our execution and how we like to play. I don’t think it was noncompetitive, but we didn’t have the focus we needed today or the toughness to beat a team that did have that.”

Maine (21-7, 14-2) settles for sharing the America East Conference regular-season title with Albany. Maine begins its postseason play next Saturday with an America East quarterfinal at noon against Binghamtom.

“We knew they were going to come for us,” junior forward Liz Wood said. “We had a target on our backs. It’s tough to lose. We haven’t felt this way in a long time and we don’t want to feel this way again.”

It was a nice win for the Wildcats (17-11, 9-7). UNH had secured the fourth-seed entering the conference tourney and go in on a positive note.

“We haven’t played like that all season,” said sophomore guard Kristen Anderson, a former standout at Leavitt. “Our defense stepped up big today. I’m just glad we did it the last day of the season, going into the tournament. Hopefully, that will turn things around, and we can play like that from now on.”

The Wildcats had lost six of its previous eight. So a win against the top seed on Senior Night and on national television was a significant boost.

“They shot really well up there,” said Anderson, whose sister Courtney is a senior guard for the Black Bears. “We played terrible defense and they clicked really well. So we knew how well they could play. We just put our whole heart out on the floor and tried to do the best that we could.”

Freshman Carlie Pogue led the Wildcats with 20 points and 10 rebounds off the bench. Elizabeth Belanger added 18 points while Anderson, also off the bench, finished with eight points and five assists.

Maine got 19 points from Wood and 13 points and five rebounds from Sigi Koizar. Maine shot 35 percent in the game from the floor and 22.7 percent from beyond the arc. The Black Bears were outrebounded 36-29 and turned the ball over 12 times.

“Our defense has really been up and down this season,” UNH coach Maureen Magarity said. “I think that’s why we’ve had such an up and down season. I was really proud with how we packed it in the paint and forced them to take contested shots.”

In the loss in Orono, the Black Bears shot well and scored baskets in the post. On Sunday, UNH had seven offensive rebounds that were converted into 11 points. Maine had 11 offensive rebounds that led to just three points.

“It’s about execution,” Barron said. “On any given Sunday, it’s a game of inches. You’ve got to fight and claw for those inches. We didn’t get those inches and they did. When we made a run, they got an offensive rebound and a put back.”

UMaine had the early lead and were up by as many as six points, but UNH battled back and the game was tied four times in the final eight minutes. The Wildcats then finished off the half with a 9-0 run, giving UNH the 28-21 lead at the break.

Pogue had six of those points. She tied the game with a basket in the post. After she hit two free throws, Aliza Simpson hit a 3. Pogue sank two more free throws for the halftime lead.

“She was just dominant and rebounded and that was a difference maker,” Magarity said. “We haven’t really been able to go big a lot this year because of foul trouble. When we’d try and have her and Kaylee (Kilpatrick) in together, one would get in foul trouble. So it was kind of a rare instance today that we could play them together, and I think it definitely helped.”

Being behind at the half isn’t something the Black Bears have been accustomed to this season, but Maine hoped to make a run in the second half.

“When we played Stony Brook, we were down almost double digits in the first half,” Wood said. “It’s not like we haven’t been in that situation. I didn’t think we did a very good job of responding at any point. In the second half, there was one point where we cut the lead to four, but we didn’t really show that much fight. That’s what was most disappointing to me.”

UNH continued to build the lead in the second half. Anderson made a number of nice passes to Pogue inside for baskets and the Wildcats were up 36-27.

The only time Maine put a run together was when Wood hit a jumper and Mikaela Gustafsson scored in the post to make it 36-31. After  Kilpatrick scored off an inbounds pass, A Wood 3 got Maine within 38-34 with 13:05 left. Pogue and Wood traded baskets, but that was as close as the Black Bears would get.

A drive by Ariel Gaston and free throws by Belanger made it 44-36. After a drive by Koizar cut it to 44-38, Anderson hit a 3 with 10:06 left. Belanger followed that with a basket for a 49-38 lead.

“We didn’t guard penetration well in the second half,” Barron said. “That led to some kick outs. Anderson hit that 3. That was a big one. We made a run. We came down and got some great shots, but Lauren Bodine, whose been hot lately, missed some wide open shots. We didn’t make the plays.”

Maine couldn’t get the stops from there to change the momentum. UNH was clicking and finished the game with a 10-4 run.

“Normally, during the season, we’d make runs back and forth but this time we made a run and kept our run the whole game,” Anderson said. “We didn’t let them catch back up. That was awesome. I’m very proud of my team and how they played today.”

Depending on what happens in the tournament, Sunday could be the last time Anderson plays against her sister.  Courtney Anderson was recognized last Thursday at Maine’ s Senior Night, with Kristen making an appearance. The Wildcats recognized the Black Bears’ lone senior prior to honoring their own Sunday. Courtney Anderson finished with three rebounds and an assist in 15 minutes of action. She even shared a few minutes of time on the court with her sister.

“I don’t mind it,” Kristen Anderson said about playing against UMaine and her big sister. “It was a little different at first, but now I’m just going into it knowing that my job is to win the game. I’m going to go in and try to win the game and we’ll be best friends afterward.”

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