BIDDEFORD — Kari Pelletier relied on a sports adage as she toed the foul line in the waning moments Tuesday night against the University of Southern Maine.

The University of New England guard simply thought really hard about not thinking too much.

“I’ve been in that situation quite a few times in my career,” said Pelletier, a South Paris native, after she drained a pair of free throws with 18.3 seconds remaining to lift the Nor’easters to a 65-63 victory over the Huskies in the women’s basketball opener for both teams.

“I just do what I’ve done every single day in practice — stick to my routine and don’t think about the situation because it will get into your head and you’ll miss it.”

The clutch baskets did leave an opportunity for the Huskies to answer in a game that was full of answers by each side.

What looked like USM’s last offensive chance ended in a foul that sent Beth Suggs of UNE to the foul line. But she missed twice, leaving the Huskies with another chance to tie or possibly win with 5.7 seconds remaining.

The subsequent push up the court led to a desperation shot by Kimberly Rivet that missed.

“You want to be able to win any number of ways and that one, we won ugly,” said UNE Coach Anthony Ewing.

“It was a grind. I think it’s always going to be a grind against Southern Maine and no one’s ever going to quit. The kids gutted it out and stepped up big with defensive rebounds.”

The entire game was a struggle for each side, both self-inflicted and opponent-imposed.

Neither team was able to put together a run to distance itself from the other and neither team could capitalize on what seemed like momentum-shifting moments.

UNE led 34-32 at the half, an opening period that saw both teams struggle to find a groove. Despite trailing, the Huskies were statistically better, shooting 37.5 percent from the field compared to 27.3 percent for the Nor’easters. USM also held a 33.3 percent to 13.3 percent advantage in 3-pointers.

The biggest lead by either team was five points, owned by the Nor’easters four times. Two of those came early in the second half when it appeared UNE had things going in its direction, leading 41-36 after five minutes.

But the Huskies went on a 9-0 run to build their biggest lead, 45-41 with 11 minutes left.

As if on cue, the Nor’easters came back with a 9-0 run of their own. The surge was ignited by Margo Russell, who hit a 3-pointer, then followed her own missed 3-pointer with a rebound basket and a 50-45 lead.

“At that point in the game we were sort of back and forth and we sort of got the momentum,” Russell said. “Offensive rebounds and 3-pointers can really switch the momentum.”

The back-and-forth nature of the game continued when Courtney Cochran, who finished with a game-high 24 points and 13 rebounds, took matters into her own hands and scored nine straight points for the Huskies, including her 3-pointer with 3:19 remaining to make it 60-60.

Haley Jordan added another 3-pointer with 1:10 left to give USM a short-lived 63-62 lead.

Moments later, Suggs, who led the Nor’easters with 18 points, sunk a free throw to tie the game and set the stage for Pelletier.

“That was a great, great college basketball game,” said Huskies Coach Gary Fifield.

“At times both teams executed very well and at times neither team executed very well. I mean, it was the first game of the year and the kids were coming out and playing with intensity.”