BRUNSWICK — McAuley High graduate Rebecca Knight transferred to the University of Southern Maine after a year at Division I UMaine in part because she wanted to enjoy playing basketball again.
She and her teammates were all smiles Tuesday night.
Knight, a sophomore, scored 21 of her 25 points in the second half and collected six rebounds as the Huskies pulled away for a 72-58 win over Bowdoin in a nonconference women’s basketball game at Morrell Gymnasium.
Senior Haley Jordan of Falmouth added 14 points and senior Nicole Garland of Deering High added 13 as the Huskies improved to 5-0.
“We’ve played two tough games in three days,” said Southern Maine Coach Gary Fifield. USM earned a 67-52 win over St. Joseph’s on Sunday. “(Bowdoin) had three days to prepare and they put in that matchup zone, which we weren’t prepared for. I’m really happy to come up here and get a win.”
Point guard Kaitlin Donahoe scored 19 points and had four steals for the Polar Bears (1-3), who pulled within five points a number of times before the Huskies slowly pulled away.
Megan Phelps added 11 points and 10 rebounds, and Anna Prohl and Kirsten Prue had nine points each.
It was the Polar Bears’ second straight loss, coming on the heels of a 72-32 loss at the University of New England on Nov. 20.
“We played much better, still not great but we’re making strides,” said Bowdoin Coach Adrienne Shibles. “We’re obviously very young and we’re feeling a lot of pressure to live up to the Bowdoin tradition. We just have to let that go. As long as we get better every day, that’s what counts.”
The Polar Bears gave the Huskies trouble from the start, opting for a 2-3 matchup zone instead of their typical man-to-man defense.
“That caused some confusion and they were hitting shots,” Fifield said.
The outside shooting of Donahoe (five points) and Prue (two 3-pointers) pulled the Polar Bears within 17-16 with 13:27 left in the half. Flummoxed inside, the Huskies took it outside, hitting six 3-pointers in a seven-minute span to edge out to a 25-18 lead.
The Polar Bears then outscored the Huskies 12-10 to cut USM’s lead to 35-30 at the half.
“I thought Nicole (nine first-half points) and Haley (six) kept us in the game with their outside shooting,” Fifield said.
With halftime came adjustments.
“In the second half we figured out their defense and starting running our swing-post offense,” Jordan said, “and that was working better for us.”
That’s when the Huskies began feeding Knight the ball. She scored 21 of the Huskies’ final 27 points.
“We switched our offense to go high-low, and the middle was wide open,” Knight said. “My teammates saw that and made great passes.”
Fifeld said it was a welcome change.
“Over the last five minutes, (Knight) was going to the hole and taking over the game a little bit,” he said. “We’ve been waiting for that.”
The Polar Bears welcomed changes as well.
“I’m really proud of the way the girls fought,” Donahoe said. “We’re a young team and we’re still working out the kinks. All you can ask for is that we get better each game.”