GORHAM - Senior forward Jordan Grant (Concord, N.H.) scored a career-high 19 points and grabbed 14 rebounds for her second consecutive double-double to lead the 23rd-ranked University of Southern Maine Huskies to a nail-biting 60-55 win over the Western Connecticut State University Colonials in a Little East Conference women's basketball game Saturday afternoon at Hill Gymnasium in Gorham, Maine.
The win is the eighth straight for the Huskies who remain undefeated at 8-0 and move to 2-0 in the Little East. The loss is the second straight for Western Connecticut which falls to 6-2 overall and 1-1 in the Little East.
Grant and the Huskies overcame a sub-par shooting performance and a rallying Colonials team to pull out the win. Grant, who was just 3-for-8 from the field, was a calm and collected 13-for-13 from the free throw line, including a perfect 7-for-7 in the final minutes of the game to help seal the victory. Sophomore forward Rebecca Knight (Alfred, Maine/McAuley) added 17 points and grabbed a career-high six steals for the Huskies.
Senior guard Jackie Zilnicki (Riverhead, N.Y.) and freshman forward Sha'Quira Palmer (Stratford, Conn/Bunnell) each scored 11 points to lead the Colonials. Zilinicki had a team-high eight rebounds, while sophomore guard Caroline Brasa (East Hartford, Conn./East Catholic) added 10 points and five rebounds off of the bench.
Despite holding a 12-point, 37-35, advantage early in the second, the Huskies saw their lead dwindle away and found themselves trailing Western Connecticut by three, 44-41 with 10:25 to play. After a steal and a layup from Knight to put the Huskies up 37-35 with 19:08 to play, Southern Maine went ice cold from the floor making just two of its next nine shots while turning the five times in the ensuing nine minutes. The Colonials capitalized on the Huskies' miscues with a 19-4. Four different Western Connecticut players scored in the run, led by seven points from Zilnicki.
Both teams battled over the next seven minutes as Grant kept the Huskies in the game at the free throw line while sophomore Taylor Flood (Sanford, Maine) made key defensive plays down the stretch. Trailing 53-52 with 3:42 to play after a three-pointer from Western senior guard Nicole Eanniello (Danbury, Conn.), Grant sank a pair of free throws, her seventh consecutive, to secure the Huskies lead 54-53 with 3:18 to play to start an 8-2 run to close out the game and seal the win. A steal from Flood led to a Knight basket, before senior guard Nicole Garland (Portland, Maine/Deering) snagged a defensive rebound and hit two free throws to extend USM's lead to 58-53 with 20 seconds to play.
A jumper from Zilnicki with eight seconds remaining trimmed the Western deficit to 58-55, but Knight dribble her way through the Western press and found Flood open for the 60-55 final as time expired.
Southern Maine shot just 34.7 percent (17-for-49) from the field, but was a solid 25-for-28 from the free throw line. The Colonials finished the game shooting 32.1 percent (17-for-53).
Southern Maine hosts Husson University on Friday (6:00 p.m.) in a non-conference game.