AUGUSTA — The University of Maine and Stony Brook are two of the best defensive women’s basketball teams in the America East Conference, although neither played like it in the first half Sunday at the Augusta Civic Center.

“We knew it was going to be a hard game and we knew we weren’t playing our best game in the first half,” Blanca Millan of Maine said.

In the second half, the Black Bears figured things out defensively.

After surrendering 43 points to the Seawolves in the first half, Maine held Stony Brook to 18 in the second half, pulling away for a 71-61 victory.

Maine, now 20-7 overall and 13-1 in conference play, will close the regular season with games at UMass-Lowell and Binghamton, and can get the top seed in the America East tourney by winning both.

Stony Brook (20-7, 9-5) can clinch the No. 3 seed with a win at Maryland-Baltimore County.

Down 43-41 at the half, the Black Bears took the lead for good at 46-45 on a Millan free throw with 5:53 left in the third quarter. With 3:08 to play in the game, Tanesha Sutton’s 3-pointer pushed the lead to 70-58. The shot gave Sutton 28 points, a career best. She shot 11 of 16 from the field and grabbed 11 rebounds, five offensive.

“My team was looking to get me the ball in the post. It was really just a team effort,” Sutton said.

In the first half, Stony Brook shot 53 percent and led by as many as seven points at 24-17 with 1:54 left in the first quarter.

Maine closed the half with a 5-0 run.

“For us, a lot of times it’s just being focused and locked in on what we want to do,” Maine Coach Amy Vachon said. “They’re really good players. They’re going to make shots, but if we can make them work for those shots …”

Stony Brook made just 8 of 28 shots in the second half. After scoring 21 points in the first half, Shania Johnson, Stony Brook’s quick, 5-foot-1 guard, was held to seven in the second.

Added Vachon: “(Johnson’s) just a really good player. We just tried to make her take hard shots. In the first half, I felt like she was getting open shots, and she’s going to make them.”

Getting Millan more involved with the offense was another key to the second-half turnaround. America East’s leading scorer, Millan had just five points at the half on 2-of-8 shooting. She finished with 18 points, shooting 6 of 10 in the second half while driving to the basket and attacking the rim.

“We just looked for opportunities for (Millan) to drive,” Vachon said. “Driving from the top is a really good spot for her. I think she was more focused on getting to the rim. Her 3 wasn’t going today.”

Point guard Dor Saar had 15 points and four assists, and Fanny Wadling grabbed 16 rebounds for the Black Bears.

“Sutton was having a great first half, as well as Dor Saar. They were kind of going with those two with the hot hand. That’s just the sign of a good team. They have different players who can step up at different times,” Stony Brook Coach Caroline McCoombs said.

This was the Black Bears’ first game at the Augusta Civic Center since 2008. The announced attendance was 1,008.

The Black Bears said they didn’t mind playing a home game 75 miles from their usual home, the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor. A concert scheduled for Sunday night made the Cross Insurance Center unavailable.

“It’s still Maine, so we got a lot of people coming to our game. They were great out there again. It’s different because we love playing at the Cross, but it was still good,” Millan said.

“It was really good to come down an hour away and have fans come and support us – fans who come to every game, and fans that probably can’t because they live here or in Portland,” Sutton said.

“It felt good to play in this environment. The crowd was into it.”