By Mike Lowe
DURHAM, N.H. - Richard Barron did not hesitate when asked what his University of Maine women's basketball team was lacking.
"We're very immature as basketball players," he said, an hour before the Black Bears were to play the University of New Hampshire. "And we get exposed game to game."
He spoke in terms of decision making, in terms of fundamentals, in terms of leadership (a critical component on a team loaded with freshmen).
Tuesday night was more of the same. The Black Bears played hard, played well at times. But too often they made critical errors, missed crucial foul shots and allowed too many offensive rebounds.
That allowed UNH to escape Lundholm Gymnasium with a 61-54 victory and keep the Black Bears reeling. The loss dropped Maine to 2-19 overall, 1-7 in America East.
The Black Bears fought back throughout, rallying from an early 12-point deficit, but could never complete the comeback.
With 13:01 remaining, a strong drive to the basket by Ashleigh Roberts tied the game at 39. She was fouled on the shot but, following a media timeout, missed the foul shot.
UNH came down and got a basket from Ariel Gaston with one second left on the shot clock.
Then, trailing 43-42, Maine had two inside shots -- one was blocked, the other missed -- and Roberts was tied up on the rebound, with UNH getting the held-ball call advantage.
UNH ran off seven in a row to take a 50-42 lead and that was it.
The Black Bears didn't help themselves by hitting just 6 of 14 foul shots. They also gave up 16 offensive rebounds, leading to 16 UNH points. And they had seven shots blocked, four by UNH's Kaylee Kilpatrick.
In a game as close as this one was, it was those little things that hurt most. Just as they have all year.
"It's not that everything is going wrong," said Barron. "The difference in a seven-point final is three possessions. Sometimes those three possessions could be three times eliminating three of those (offensive rebounds). You eliminate three of those, it changes the outcome.
"Obviously, things like free throws. You make two more free throws, eliminate two of those rebounds, it changes the outcome of the game."
Maine has been in its share of close games. Eight of its 19 losses have been by three possessions or less.
"The little things matter," said Barron.
And the players know this.
"We've been doing better," said senior forward Corinne Wellington, who led Maine with 14 points and seven rebounds. "We lost by seven. Maybe two months ago it would have been by 17."
"We're seeing improvement," said freshman forward Liz Wood, who had 12 points. "But we've just got to focus on getting the little plays right every time."
Courtney Anderson, the sophomore guard from Greene and Leavitt High in Turner, said the improvement needs to be carried over to the court.
"We're in a lot of close games but we need to pull out a win,' said Anderson, who scored 10 points. "The fact that we're getting better, getting closer, is good. We've just got to figure out how to pull out these games."
And it starts in practice. Thats' where, said Barron, the players learn the proper footwork to play in the pivot, where they learn the proper techniques for boxing out that will eliminate the opponent's offensive rebounds, where they find the rhythm for shooting -- and making -- foul shots.
"We just have to keep working every day hard in practice," said Anderson. "What we try to work on every day is execution. We need to run plays correctly, to not turn the ball over, just rebound in general.
"The little things we work on every day, it has to translate (to games)."
Staff Writer Mike Lowe can be contacted at 791-6422 or at: