ORONO, Maine — Amber Smith knew last December she wouldn’t be playing until the 2010-11 basketball season.
The University of Maine freshman guard demonstrated Sunday afternoon that she has made considerable strides in her game, contributing eight points, eight steals and six rebounds in the Black Bears’ 88-44 exhibition victory over Husson University of Bangor at Alfond Arena.
“What you see today is a byproduct of her working very hard in the offseason, which actually began in late December,” said UMaine coach Cindy Blodgett. “She didn’t pout about it, she didn’t get upset, she just worked.”
On Saturday, the UMaine men’s team earned a 72-57 exhibition win over Cape Breton University of Sydney, Nova Scotia.
In Sunday’s game, UMaine capitalized on a considerable advantage in frontcourt height and backcourt savvy while beating the Division III Eagles of the North Atlantic Conference.
Smith was among several catalysts for UMaine, especially on the defensive end of the floor.
“To come in and be able to practice for a year and to get everything down and to really understand what I’m supposed to be doing is a huge benefit to me,” Smith said. “I really needed to work on my knowledge of the game and I still need to work on my (defensive) positioning and my quickness.”
The Bears displayed offensive balance, placing six players in double figures with an unselfish performance. UMaine was particularly effective in transition and had numerous chances as a result of hounding the Eagles into many of their 35 turnovers.
“We knew that was going to be our biggest challenge,” Husson coach Kissy Walker said of handling the defensive pressure.
The Eagles were without their top two point guards as Amanda Gifford of Lee and Caitlyn Butterfield of Gorham were with the Husson soccer team in the NAC semifinals.
Junior Sam Wheeler paced the Bears with 13 points and added five rebounds and four steals. Sophomore Corinne Wellington provided 10 points and 11 rebounds, while sophomore Katelyn Vanderhoff registered eight points, nine assists and seven steals with only one turnover.
Freshman Ali Nalivaika (eight rebounds) and junior Sam Baranowski (six rebounds) netted 12 points each and junior Brittany Williams added 10 with four assists. UMaine shot 51 percent from the field and outrebounded the Eagles 47-30.
Husson demonstrated its long-range shooting ability with an 8-for-18 effort from 3-point range. That included three 3-pointers each by Noelle Lincoln of Dixmont and Marissa Albert of Fort Kent.
However, the Eagles turnovers and lack of size were huge obstacles.
“For us, it’s great to play against physical players, big people. I think we got a lot from it,” Walker said.
Among the bright spots for Husson was freshman center Stephanie Comstock of Bangor, who scored a team-best 11 points and grabbed four rebounds. She went 7-for-10 from the foul line.
“(Comstock’s) going to be tough. This will be her type of game,” Walker said.
Bethany Sevey of Skowhegan scored 10 points, while Lincoln and Albert added nine each. Freshman forward Haley McGee of Fairfield provided tenacious rebounding and led Husson with six.
UMaine was without senior Tanna Ross (head injury), junior transfer Sheay Longstaff (knee) and redshirt freshmen Shareka Maner (knee) and Rachele Burns of Gorham (knee).
On Saturday, the UMaine men came away with a positive feeling after beating Cape Breton.
Ted Woodward’s squad made its only Alfond game appearance until a Nov. 19 contest against Division III UMaine-Machias.
“We’ve been playing against each other now for the longest (time) — scrimmages, practices, Blue-White game — so it felt good playing different competition,” said junior Gerald McLemore, who scored 14 points.
UMaine built the victory around defense and rebounding. The Bears held the Capers to 37 percent floor shooting and grabbed a commanding 50-27 advantage on the boards.
“It gives us a great learning experience,” Woodward said.
“We knew they were going to give us a little bit of a challenge here, so we were pleased to play gus who could score, who could spread you out.”
UMaine demonstrated offensive balance, with McLemore and sophomore swing player Murphy Burnatowski scoring 14 points each. Senior Troy Barnies of Auburn contributed 10 points and nine rebounds with three assists and two steals, while Sean McNally of Gardiner (six rebounds) and freshman Alasdair Fraser (seven rebounds) added eight points each.
McNally left the game early in the second half after injuring his right ankle, but could have returned, according to Woodward.
The Bears were without starting guard Terrance Mitchell and backup post players Travon Wilcher, who were withheld because of minor injuries.
The hosts did commit 21 turnovers.
“I feel like today’s goal was to execute,” Barnies said.
“Scoring-wise, we have to work out kinks on our set plays, but overall we did a really good job today.”
Cape Breton, the defending Atlantic University Sport champion, had beaten Husson in overtime Friday.
Paris Carter, an America East All-Rookie pick at Division I Hartford in 2006, teamed with James Dorsey to toss in 15 points each. Dorsey also came up with five steals and had four assists.
The Bears built a 40-24 halftime advantage as McLemore hit three 3-pointers on his way to nine points and eight different UMaine players scored.
Cape Breton got as close as nine points (54-45) in the second half, but was unable to establish enough of an inside game to counter UMaine’s balance.
Maine 88, Husson 44
Hanscom 0-3-3, Lincoln 3-0-9, Sevey 4-0-10, Albert 3-0-9, K. Murray, Duke, Carroll 1-0-2, McGee, Massengale, Comstock 2-7-11
Wheeler 5-3-13, Wellington 4-2-10, Baranowski 4-4-12, Williams 4-2-10, Vanderhoff 3-1-8, Roberts 5-0-11, Smith 4-0-8, Nalivaika 5-2-12, Babbe 2-0-4
3-pt. goals: Lincoln 3, Sevey 2, Albert 3; Vanderhoff, Roberts
Halftime: Maine 45-29
Maine 72, Cape Breton 57
Cape Breton 57
Nkrumah 3-0-6, Jaspers-Fayer 2-1-5, Fraser 1-0-2, Carter 5-3-15, Dorsey 5-2-15, Smith 1-0-2, Alilovic 3-0-7, Nelson, MacQuarrie 1-0-3, Glasgow 1-0-2, MacDonald, Roper
Barnies 3-4-10, McNally 3-2-8, Peay 2-0-4, Singleton 2-0-6, McLemore 5-0-14, McAllian, Rogers 1-2-5, Fraser 4-0-8, Burnatwoski 6-0-14, Allison 0-3-3
3-pt. goals: Carter 2, Dorsey 3, Alilovic, MacQuarrie; Singleton 2, McLemore 4, Rogers, Burnatowski 2
Halftime: Maine 40-24