ORONO, Maine — For many years, the University of Maine was the standard by which all America East women’s basketball programs were measured.
During the last four-plus seasons, it is the Hartford Hawks who have been perched atop the conference.
Coach Jen Rizzotti’s team demonstrated why Saturday, dominating from the outset while cruising to a 77-46 victory over UMaine at Alfond Arena.
Hartford (7-7, 2-0 AE) hounded the Black Bears with relentless man-to-man defense, overwhelming a UMaine squad (2-13, 0-2 AE) that lacks the talent and depth to match up with the Hawks.
“I think it’s safe to say that we’re at two different ends of the spectrum here as far as program-wise,” said UMaine coach Cindy Blodgett, whose team lost its ninth straight contest. “The [Hartford] upperclassmen, they’ve experienced winning, they know how hard you have to work to maintain that level and they come ready to compete each and every night.”
UMaine committed 25 turnovers in the face of Hartford’s aggressive defense and had difficulty containing the Hawks’ well-balanced offensive attack.
The Hawks kept constant pressure on the ball, making UMaine work hard to even get into its offensive sets. The Bears responded with numerous turnovers and wound up shooting only 33 percent.
“That’s always been our trademark, so we always say we’re going to win games because of our defense and we’re going to blow people out because of our offense,” Rizzotti said.
“We want that reputation,” she added. “We want people to think, ‘It’s going to be hard to score tonight when Hartford comes to town,’ even on their own home floor.”
On the offensive end, not only was Hartford quick on the perimeter, forwards Erica Beverly and Diana Delva controlled play in the paint.
Despite the obvious disparity between the two teams, Blodgett was not pleased with the Bears’ effort.
“This is a game where we’re playing the top team in our conference, we’re playing them at home,” Blodgett said. “Like I told the team [Friday], we’re going to get one shot at them, for 40 minutes. We have to be ready from the get-go and you could see we did not come out ready to play whatsoever in any one single phase.”
Hartford took control from the outset. The Hawks scored the game’s first seven points amidst a 16-4 surge that ended any suspense about the eventual outcome.
UMaine committed five turnovers in the first 4:36 and wound up with nine turnovers an only seven field-goal attempts in the opening nine minutes of the contest.
Speedy guard Lisa Etienne scored 14 points while Delva and Beverly combined for 14 more as the Hawks extended the advantage to 36-13 with 5:38 to play in the half.
“They definitely come out to play every time and they’re really intense and they’re disciplined with everything that they do,” Maine point guard Kristin Baker said.
“We just need to start showing up and come ready to play, just get better in practice,” she added.
Hartford opened the second half with a resounding 17-0 run, in barely 3½ minutes, to put the game out of reach. The Bears, who went scoreless for the last 4:25 of the first half, were shut out for more than eight minutes overall before Baker made a driving layup at 16:11 of the second half.
Baker paced UMaine with 12 points, five assists and two steals. She committed nine turnovers. Brittany Boser added nine points and seven rebounds.
Etienne connected for 20 points and grabbed eight rebounds to lead Hartford, which came up with 18 steals. Beverly scored 15 points to go with five rebounds, six assists, four steals and a blocked shot, while Delva posted 14 points.
The Hawks shot 48 percent from the floor and outrebounded the Bears 41-28.
UMaine returns to action Tuesday night at Albany.