ALBANY, N.Y. — As good as the University of Maine’s defense has been, it was no match for Shereesha Richards of Albany.

Richards poured in 34 points Saturday as Albany defeated Maine 64-59 in a game between America East’s top two women’s basketball teams.

“Richards was phenomenal,” Maine Coach Richard Barron said. “We played well enough to be close but not well enough to win.”

Maine (12-7, 3-1) allowed Albany (13-3, 4-0) to break open a close game with a 14-4 run late in the third quarter after the Black Bears took their only lead.

Maine was led by Sigi Koizar, who finished with 17 points and six rebounds. Mikaela Gustafsson added 16 points.

The loss snapped a three-game winning streak for the Black Bears, who rallied from several deficits only to see the Great Danes capitalize on Maine’s mistakes to pull away.

“When we messed up, we gave them points,” Barron said. “We just didn’t execute.”

With the game close late in the third quarter, the Black Bears lost control of the ball. Players on both sides collided as they dove to the floor.

But it didn’t matter. The shot clock ran out on the Black Bears and the precious points Maine needed would not come.

“I spent a minute and a half drawing up that play and we just couldn’t execute it,” Barron said.

“It took us three trips up the court to finally get it right.”

By then it was too late. The Great Danes came up with several more key defensive stops.

“They frustrated us,” Barron said. “We couldn’t get second-chance points.”

Albany may have come into the game with the top scoring offense in America East (69.1 points per game), but it was the way it performed defensively that may have tipped the scales in a close game.

The Black Bears trailed by eight at halftime but opened the third quarter on an 8-2 run, then took the lead when Liz Wood forced a turnover that resulted in a basket by Koizar.

A 3-pointer by Sophie Weckstrom put the Black Bears up by three points with 5:25 remaining in the period.

But the Great Danes continued to press and made it 38-38 on two foul shots by Imani Tate (17 points).

“We did a poor job defending Tate,” Barron said.

Albany put Maine in a deep hole by finishing the third quarter with a 12-2 spurt to take a 50-41 advantage.

A Gustafsson basket inside the paint capped a 5-0 run that pulled the Black Bears within 54-50 before the Great Danes put the game away.

The Black Bears got off to a slow start. The Great Danes opened with a 13-6 first-quarter run.

Albany was able to box out the Black Bears and not give up offensive rebounds.

Bella Swan (9 points) sank a jump shot to cut Albany’s lead to 17-16. But Albany finished the first half the way it started it – on a 13-6 spurt for a 30-22 halftime lead.

Wood achieved a pair of milestones for the Black Bears. She moved past Stephanie Guidi for eighth all-time in scoring with 1,293 points and eighth in rebounding, passing Lauree Gott with 783.