The ongoing trials and tribulations the University of Maine women’s basketball team facing were on full display during Saturday afternoon’s 86-54 thrashing at the hands of the Albany Great Danes at Alfond Arena. The loss was the third in a row for the Black Bears, who have now lost 18 of their last 19 contests and stand at stingy 2-21 on the season.
A season that began with high hopes and playoff aspirations has turned into a nightmare for UMaine, as inconsistent play and injuries have shattered any chance the team had. Injuries have been most notable during this most recent slide, as senior forward Corinne Wellington and sophomore forward Danielle Walczak were both lost to season ending injuries in the past week, while freshman center Anna Heise ruled out for the season a week earlier. The loss of the three post players has depleted the Black Bears front-court depth, putting the team at a disadvantage for the remainder of the season.
The Black Bears suited up just eight players in their conference tilt against the America East leading Great Danes, so the odds were stacked against them from start.
Even under each the various circumstances, UMaine was able to hold its own in the early going and had an early lead with just over 7 minutes remaining in the opening half. Junior guard Ashleigh Roberts helped fuel the early surge for the Black Bears with five quick points as part of a 10-2 run for the Black Bears. Freshman guard Brittany Wells buried a corner three, and freshman forward Liz Wood added a mid-range jumper to make it a 20-18 lead.
UMaine was able to hold off the Albany attack in the opening minutes with a stingy zone defense. The Great Danes could not find open lanes, due to the zone, and were forced to take perimeter shots that would not drop.
The solid play would not last, though, as the Black Bears finally began to succumb to their lack of depth and size while the Great Danes began to heat up. Albany was able to convert UMaine turnovers into points, which helped the Great Dane offense gain momentum and continuity.
The Great Danes negotiated a 20-6 run to end the half over the last 6 minutes of the first to set the Black Bears in a hole. Albany reeled off nine quick points to start the run with two makes from senior forward Julie Forster and one a piece from senior guard Lindsey Lowrie and freshman forward Shereesha Richards. Forster would add four more points down during the run and senior guard Ebone Henry produced five points in the final 2 minutes of the half, putting Albany up 40-24 at the half.
The second half would not be any better for the Black Bears, as the Great Danes extended their lead to 25 in the first 5 minutes of the period.
The Black Bears attempted to grab momentum and cut into the Albany lead with a 6-0 run with 12 minutes remaining. Two made free throws from Roberts and back-to-back buckets from Wells gave UMaine a chance to get back into the game, but turnovers and an inability to finish around the basket doomed the team’s chances.
Turnovers were the source of the problem all day for UMaine, as Albany produced 29 points off 24 Black Bear turnovers.
Following the UMaine run, Albany would run their lead back up to 27 halfway through the second and would not let the lead fall below 25 for the remainder of the contest. The Great Danes upped their lead with layups from Richards and sophomore center Megan Craig, while Lowrie stuck consecutive 3 pointers.
Three consecutive 3 pointers in the last 3 minutes was the exclamation point for the Great Danes, who closed the door on the 86-54 victory.
Albany was led by Forster’s 25 points and 11 rebounds, while Henry chipped in 14 points and Lowrie added 13 points.
Roberts produced a team-high 20 points for the Black Bears in the loss. UMaine also got nine points from Wells and eight points from Wood.
As a team, UMaine was bested in every category, including big deficits in rebounds (46-36), turnovers (24-14), and assists (23-11).
The Black Bears will try to right the ship when they travel to face the University of Hartford on Wednesday, Feb. 13 at 7:30 p.m.