WOMEN’S BASKETBALL EDGED BY VERMONT IN CONFERENCE OPENER, 55-53

DURHAM, N.H.Denise Beliveau (Framingham, Mass.) poured in a team-high 17 points, but the University of New Hampshire dropped a 55-53 decision to the University of Vermont on Saturday afternoon at Lundholm Gymnasium.

With the win, the Catamounts improve to 11-2 on the season and 1-0 in America East play. As for the Wildcats, they fall to 5-8 on the year and 0-1 in conference play.

Jill McDonald (Middlebury, Vt.) was named the America East Player of the Game for UNH, tallying 12 points, nine rebounds, four blocks and two assists. For Vermont, Courtnay Pilypaitis took home Player of the Game honors, notching a game-high 22 points and 17 rebounds.

With 2:15 remaining in the contest, Amy Simpson (Waterford, Conn.) set up Beliveau with a jumper to give the Wildcats a 51-50 lead. On the ensuing possession Pilypaitis fired back with a 3-pointer, putting the Catamounts on top 53-51 with 1:53 remaining.

Moments later, Beliveau would come up big once again for the ‘Cats, burying a layup to knot up the score at 53-53 with 33 seconds remaining. After the change in possession, Pilypaitis came up in the clutch for Vermont, putting back her own miss for a layup with one second remaining, giving the Catamounts the 55-53 victory.

After a neck and neck battle in the early going, Vermont picked up the pace midway through the first stanza, as a jumper by Sofia Iwobi ignited an 11-4 that gave the visitors their largest lead of the game, pushing the score to 22-15 at 5:07.

Neither team would find the laces for the next two minutes of play, but Chrissy Hall (Northbridge, Mass.) would break the scoreless streak with a trifecta at 3:06, trimming the score to 22-18 in favor of the visitors.

May Kotsopoulos responded knocking down the first of two free throw attempts on the ensuing possession, but it wasn't enough to slow up the ‘Cats, as Beliveau drilled a pair of free throws cutting the score to 23-20 at 1:31.

However, Tonya Young added one of two free throw attempts and Iwobi buried a layup in the closing moments of the half, pushing the score to 26-20 in favor of the visitors at the intermission.

The second stanza started much the same as the first half, as both teams continued to exchange baskets, with Vermont holding a 32-26 advantage after a Kotsopoulos layup at 17:07.

Following the basket, New Hampshire caught fire, posting an 8-2 run, that featured six unanswered points to knot the score at 34-34 with 14:40 remaining.

Pilypaitis responded knocking down the first of two free throws at 12:53 to reclaim the 35-34 lead. However, UNH was quick to the draw as Lauren Wells (West Chester, Pa.) laced a 3-pointer to give the Wildcats their first lead since scoring the game's first basket.

The ‘Cats would continue to pile on the points in the moments that followed, stringing together a 7-3 run following Wells' basket, giving the home team its largest lead of the game with score set at 44-39 with 6:26 remaining.

Despite UNH's hot streak, the Catamounts came back strong with an 11-5 run that was capped off with a Pilypaitis 3-pointer at 3:42, reclaiming the lead with score 50-49.

In addition to scoring 17 points, Beliveau finished the afternoon with six rebounds, two blocks and a steal. Simpson added two points, seven rebounds and seven assists. Candace Williams (Norfolk, Mass.) chipped in with seven points and eight rebounds.

For the Catamounts, Kotsopoulos notched 16 points, four steals and three assists. Kendra Seto and Iwobi added six points apiece.

The Wildcats return to action on Jan. 6 at 7 p.m. when they take on Stony Brook at the Stony Brook Sports Complex.

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