ORONO, Maine — The outcome was never in doubt, but the game was beneficial for both teams Friday night at Alfond Arena.
The University of Maine demonstrated the size and skill that makes it a Division I program while breezing to a 79-38 women’s basketball exhibition victory over Husson University of Bangor.
A crowd of 1,424 fans turned out to watch the Division III Eagles test their mettle against a Black Bears squad that played a solid, all-round contest.
Coach Cindy Blodgett’s Black Bears played their last preseason game before heading to Durham, N.C., for their Nov. 16 season opener at eighth-ranked Duke. She was happy to be able to play Husson.
“I think it’s good for the community,” Blodgett said. “Both schools are so close, regardless of playing in different divisions. I’m always keeping an eye of what Husson’s doing in terms of hoping they’re successful with their program.”
Husson, coached by former UMaine guard and captain Mary “Kissy” Walker, is preparing for a Nov. 16 nonleague opener against UMaine-Fort Kent.
“With Kissy Walker’s ties to the UMaine women’s program, being a former player, I think that’s also nice to bring her back here as well,” Blodgett said.
Once the ball was in play, the Eagles were in a bit over their heads. They struggled with turnovers in the first half and encountered numerous matchup problems.
“I think it was good experience to play a team like this, even though you know the outcome,” said Husson senior guard Jenny Rollins of Corinth. “It’s hard to go against a D-I team. They’re just quicker, stronger, bigger.”
Samantha Baranowski, a 6-foot-3 freshman center, capitalized on her inside prowess while connecting for a game-high 20 points to pace UMaine. She also pulled down 12 rebounds, dished out three assists and blocked two shots.
“They were a lot smaller than us tonight and I had a lot of the girls on the team giving me good looks inside, setting me up for some baskets underneath,” Baranowski said. “I definitely need to keep working on defense.”
Each of the nine UMaine players in uniform scored amidst a balanced performance that included 10 points each from junior Brittany Boser and freshman Jasmine Rush (four assists). Katia Bratishko contributed eight points and a game-best 14 rebounds to go with four steals, while Tanna Ross of Newburgh and Amanda Tewksbury posted nine points each.
Junior point guard Kristin Baker of Bingham shook off early foul trouble to provide seven points, eight rebounds, eight assists and five steals in 25 minutes. The Bears shot 52 percent from the floor and outrebounded the Eagles by a commanding 53-32 margin.
“This allowed us to use some different lineups, work on a few things that hopefully we can use when we play next week,” Blodgett said. “It was nice to get the freshmen some extended minutes where they could just get out and play and get used to the atmosphere.”
Freshman Samantha Wheeler sat out the contest as she continues to deal with plantar fasciitis, a soft-tissue injury in the bottom of the foot.
Sophomore guard Noelle Lincoln of Dixmont led Husson with nine points. Scrappy freshman Bree Hanscom of Mattawamkeag chipped in with four points and nine rebounds.
The Eagles, who shot only 21 percent from the field, are still trying to put things together without having a full roster. Husson just got two players back this week who spent the fall playing field hockey, while four soccer players who will compete today for the North Atlantic Conference championship — including senior standout Shelby (Pickering) Bradford of Lee — watched Friday’s game in street clothes.
The Bears played cohesive defense, switching back and forth between their 1-2-2 matchup zone and man-to-man. They limited the Eagles’ second shots and also turned their rebounding advantage into several fast-break opportunities.