BANGOR — The scoreboard might have said something different, but Cherrish Wallace had the most impressive comeback of the afternoon Sunday.
Wallace is a point guard piecing her basketball career back together after a pair of devastating leg injuries robbed her of five years of competition.
She is doing so at Maine, not mighty Baylor, where her ordeal began with a chronic stress fracture as a freshman in 2008-09. That one required the insertion of a titanium rod.
A subsequent injury, in which her shin bone split, led to more metal becoming a permanent part of her lower body.
In her second game as a Black Bear – and her first collegiate start – Wallace dazzled to the tune of 15 points and eight assists at the Cross Insurance Center, only to see Yale win at the buzzer, 86-85.
“I’m still trying to catch back up,” Wallace said after visible fatigue limited her to 24 minutes.
Also visible, though, was her inventiveness as a passer and her competitive fire. Wallace was charged with seven of Maine’s 23 turnovers, although frequently that was because her passes caromed off the hands of surprised teammates. At other times, she found herself hopping up and down in frustration after a perfect feed resulted in a missed layup.
“She sees passes that I don’t see. And sometimes she’s driving down the lane and I have the ball in my hands, and I don’t even know how it got there,” said Liz Wood, who scored 23 points.
“You have to be ready for the pass. She might not be looking at you, but she sees you.”
The Black Bears (6-8) lost despite shooting 61 percent. Turnovers were the biggest problem, although poor interior defense also contributed. There were 17 lead changes, the last occurring as the final horn sounded, with Yale’s Nyasha Sarju lying in the lane after darting in from the left wing to bank a layup.
“She’s probably our best pure shooter and she turned down a wide-open look to take off,” Yale Coach Chris Gobrecht said with a tone of exasperation. “She goes, ‘I thought I’d get fouled.’”
Yale (6-7) also beat the buzzer in the first half with a half-court heave from Sarah Halejian that banked in for a 47-41 advantage.
But Wallace wasted no time in bringing her new team back into a tie, with a pair of beautiful assists and a short jumper. She made all six of her field goals in her first home game after coming off the bench in Wednesday’s loss at Wisconsin-Green Bay.
Wallace practiced with Maine during the first semester while awaiting her eligibility. She followed Coach Richard Barron to Orono. He recruited her to Baylor when he was an assistant there.
“She’s a different kind of player than anyone else we have,” Barron said. “”She’s more creative, both with the ball and with her footwork. Her vision is excellent. She sees people. So it really changes the way you play and changes the tempo of the game.”
Wallace said she never gave up her dream of playing again, but it didn’t become a reality until one final surgery in July 2012.
Her Baylor career consisted of 11 games as a freshman, in which she totaled 22 points and got a glimpse of life in the rugged Big 12 Conference for a team that aims for national titles.
“I think for me it was about self-fulfillment. I didn’t like the way I left off,” Wallace said of her long journey back to the court. “I forgot all about it (the surgeries). I try to make myself feel regular again. So the injury’s the last thing on my mind.”
Mark Emmert can be contacted at 791-6424 or at: