BRUNSWICK — The University of Southern Maine women’s basketball team entered the game Tuesday night at Bowdoin College as an obvious underdog.

But this is a rivalry in which every shot is contested, every rebound well earned and every loose ball a potential scrum.

The Huskies kept it close before the Polar Bears pulled away for a 63-51 victory at Morrell Gymnasium.

Bowdoin, which dropped out of the latest Division III national poll, improved to 3-1 while USM dropped to 3-3.

Jill Henrikson of Bath and Katie Bergeron of Bradley paced the Polar Bears with 18 points each. Alexa Barry added 12 points and 10 rebounds.

Lauren Rousseau, a freshman from Biddeford, led USM with 13 points. Courtney Cochran scored nine and grabbed 21 rebounds.

USM never led in the second half, but Renee Nichols’ two free throws closed the Huskies to 52-49 with 4:06 remaining.

Bergeron kept coming up big in the stretch. Her free throw and driving jumper made it 55-49. Nichols hit a jumper but Bowdoin finished with a 7-0 run.

“(USM) has a lot of speed and athleticism,” Bowdoin Coach Adrienne Shibles said. “I was proud of the poise our team showed down the stretch.”

Bowdoin took advantage of USM’s four-guard offense, outrebounding the Huskies 45-38, including 25-17 in the second half. USM’s lone post player, the 6-foot Cochran, played 38 minutes but had to contend with a swarm of Polar Bears pounding the boards.

“We really focused on that at halftime,” Shibles said. “Cochran was doing such a good job. We had to tighten it up.”

Bowdoin, which appears headed for another successful season, routed the University of New England last week, 82-55. UNE had beaten USM two weeks ago.

But the Huskies, who have as many as three freshmen and a sophomore on the floor at once, are improving.

“I think we grew up a lot tonight,” USM Coach Gary Fifield said. “I thought we played well against a real, real good team.

“I’m happy. I obviously hate to lose but I thought we gave a great effort.”

In the first half, there were nine lead changes and neither team led by more than six points.

USM took a 23-18 lead with 2:28 left in the half on a layup by Cochran and Rousseau’s 3-pointer. But the Polar Bears finished the half with an 11-point run highlighted by Henrikson’s 3-pointer for a 29-23 lead.

USM hit 8 of 26 3-pointers, including three by Rousseau and two by Kaylie DeMillo. Bowdoin was 6 of 18 from behind the arc, getting three from Henrikson and two from Bergeron.

When the Huskies closed to 32-29 early in the second half, Bergeron hit her two 3-pointers and Henrikson added another as Bowdoin opened a 44-32 lead. But USM persisted.

“They have a lot of speed and athleticism,” Shibles said. “That speed made our press less effective than it is against other teams.”

Bowdoin next plays host to unbeaten and 20th-ranked Colby on Saturday. Southern Maine opens its Little East Conference schedule Saturday at Western Connecticut State.


Staff Writer Kevin Thomas can be contacted at 791-6411 or at: [email protected]