After two and a half months of struggles and demoralization, the University of Maine women’s basketball team finally had something to smile about on Saturday, during a home game at Alfond Arena. The Black Bears were able put an end to their 15-game losing streak with an impressive 67-51 win over America East foe Stony Brook.
“Feels great to get a win here today,” said UMaine coach Richard Barron.
UMaine was able to get off to a quick start with an 11-0 run to grab the early advantage. Freshman guard Liz Wood started the run for the Black Bears while junior guard Ashleigh Roberts provided back-to-back layups to give UMaine a three-point advantage. The run continued, as Roberts and sophomore forward Danielle Walczak forced steals to help produce a two Wood layups on the other end. Roberts capped the run off with a short-range jumper to give UMaine a 16-5 lead with just over 9 minutes left in the first.
“Our turnovers helped initiate a lot of their breaks and allowed them to get more opportunities,” said Seawolves coach Beth O’Boyle. “Their work on the offensive boards in the first half really got them going as well.”
The offense continued to roll from that point as the UMaine lead got out to as much as 16 during the opening half. The continuity of the offense was a big factor in the first half dominance, as the Black Bears have had trouble establishing consistency for more than a couple of minutes at a time all season.
“I think we were being decisive and that made a big difference for us today,” Walczak said. “We weren’t trying to just run the offense and get overly concerned with it. We just worked on doing the little things right; and when we did them right, things just connected for us.”
The Black Bears paired the offense with some stifling defense that held Stony Brook to just 15 points in the first half and helped UMaine get out to a 29-15 advantage.
UMaine produced another 11-0 run in the opening minutes of the second half to run out to a 23-point lead, their largest of the game and the season. Freshman guard Sophie Weckstrom jump-started UMaine’s run by knocking down a 3 and then connecting on a fast break lay-in off a Wood steal. Senior forward Corinne Wellington kicked a pass from the post to sophomore guard Courtney Anderson in the corner for a jumper to put up the Black Bear lead to 21. A pair of Walczak free throws ended the UMaine run and put the black bears up 42-19 with just over 11 minutes remaining.
The Seawolves would not go down without a fight, as they switched to a full-court press that stymied the Black Bears and allowed Stony Brook to get back into the game.
“We started to move a little too fast and got ahead of ourselves when we really just needed to keep our composure,” Wood said
“We lost some of our aggressiveness there at the end and became hesitant as we were trying to work the clock down,” added UMaine coach Richard Barron.
The press helped Stony Brook cut the lead to 17 with just over 3 minutes to play and then went on an 8-0 run in the next minute to cut the UMaine lead to nine. It looked as though deja vu was settling in with another lead being wiped away, but the Black Bears had a bit more confidence this time around.
“We have had that mentality of trying not to lose instead of trying to win,” Wood said. “Today we played to win, and that helped us avoid letting them come back.”
The Black Bears were able to capitalize from the free-throw line in the closing minutes, going 10-10 from the charity stripe, which helped close out the 67-51 victory.
UMaine bested Stony Brook in all team statistical categories, highlighted by their 45 rebounds and 26 bench points.
Barron was pleased with the production of his bench, which had been lacking in the past few games. Though the bench was better, Barron still leaned on most of his starters for 30 minutes or more in the contest.
“They have established themselves as players [who] we need in the game,” Barron said. “It’s a seven- to eight-player rotation, and we are planning to just try and keep the best players on the floor at all times.”
Roberts led the Black Bears with 14 points off the bench, while Wood, Walczak and Wellington all netted 12 points apiece.
Senior guard Dani Klupenger netted 14, and senior forward Jessica Previlon added 12 to pace Stony Brook’s offense.
UMaine came into the game looking to build off a decent showing in Wednesday’s 61-53 loss at Vermont. Wood poured in a career-high 22 points in the contest while Roberts added 11 in a losing cause. The Black Bears showed signs of life with great effort again on the boards with a 31-30 UMaine advantage, while shooting just under 40 percent as a team — 46 percent in the second half alone.
The Black Bears will look to make it two wins in a row as they hit the road to face conference rival UNH on Wednesday, Jan. 29 at 7 p.m. UMaine will then return to Alfond Arena to host UMBC on Saturday, Feb. 2 at noon.