BANGOR, Maine — There have been several key changes this season for the Bowdoin College women’s basketball team.
The Polar Bears have a new coach in Knox native Adrienne Shibles and two senior starters have been plagued by injuries.
And while there are a handful of new players on the squad, the one thing that hasn’t changed is Bowdoin’s defensive intensity.
The Polar Bears used their full-court pressure to generate numerous turnovers to overcome a sluggish start Tuesday night and pull away for a 77-59 victory over Husson University at Newman Gymnasium.
Bowdoin (6-2) swarmed the court and forced many of the Eagles’ 24 turnovers.
“Bowdoin’s one of the most intense teams we play,” said Husson senior Jenny Rollins of Corinth. “They’re in your face. They know how to play good ‘D’ and they know how to get your weaknesses out of you and they did that to us tonight.”
Bowdoin’s relentless pressure helped it overcome some early offensive woes. The Polar Bears used their quick feet and excellent anticipation to get hands in passing lanes and come up with 19 steals and force some bad passes.
“Coach loves defense and everybody on our team’s really excited to play defense,” said sophomore guard Katie Bergeron of Bradley, who provided 11 points, two assists and two steals. “Sometimes when our offense isn’t as good as it should be, like we started off a little slow [tonight], we can rely on our defense to help us through.”
Freshman Ellery Gould was a catalyst coming off the bench for Bowdoin. She connected for a game-high 20 points and also came up with four steals.
Junior forward Leah Rubega, who missed most of last season with a knee injury, registered 12 points, 12 rebounds and four steals. Senior guard Maria Noucas handed out six assists.
Bowdoin shot 48 percent from the field, including 54 percent (15-for-28) in the second half, when it pounded the ball inside more frequently.
The Polar Bears have reconfigured after losing two key seniors with injuries. Forward Jill Anelauskas is out for the season with torn knee ligaments, while guard Alexas Kaubris saw her first action of the season against Husson.
“I think that’s the great thing about this team,” Shibles said. “Some of our bigger names might not be out there, but I think we have a pretty deep crew.”
Husson (1-4) surged out to an 11-2 lead during the first 4½ minutes with Rollins and Bethany Sevey of Skowhegan (15 points) leading the charge. The Eagles were effective finding open shooters in transition.
However, Bowdoin’s pressure began to take a toll. Husson committed five turnovers during a span of 3:19, which helped the Polar Bears get back into a more effective rhythm.
Jill Henrikson of Bath scored off her own miss at the 12:40 mark to ignite a decisive 15-0 Bowdoin run. Colleen Sweeney made a 16-footer, Rubega sank two free throws and Bangor’s Amy Hackett hit a jumper to send the visitors on their way.
“They really have embraced this new sort of full-court defensive thing,” Shibles said. “I think it made a huge difference, because we were sluggish to start and that got us going.”
The flurry gave Bowdoin a 21-15 lead with 8:53 left.
“They caused us 24 turnovers and we worked all week to focus better so we wouldn’t do that,” said Husson coach Kissy Walker, “so I’m a little disappointed that we ended up with that many.
“They were physical and they were tough for us sometimes in the post to get around.”
Bowdoin eventually extended the first-half lead to as many as 15 (34-19) on a Gould 3-pointer at the 4:39 mark. Husson didn’t get closer than nine after that.
Rollins tallied 13 points and Shelby Bradford of Lee posted 10 points, nine rebounds, four assists and two steals.