ORONO — Defensive lapses, turnovers and poor shooting were three elements that plagued the University of Maine women’s basketball team during the 2009-10 season.
Those same problems contributed to the Black Bears’ opening-season loss Saturday afternoon.
Harvard scored 28 points as a result of UMaine’s 20 turnovers and the Crimson played a well-rounded second half while pulling away for a 73-54 victory at Alfond Arena.
UMaine got off to a strong start and built a 10-point lead, but could not maintain that defensive cohesiveness and offensive execution in the second half.
Harvard was able to attack the Bears’ defense, both in transition and in the half-court. The visitors shot 57 percent (16-for-28) from the floor in the second half.
“Our attention to detail has to be every single possession and it can’t waiver if we’re not scoring at the other end,” said UMaine coach Cindy Blodgett.
UMaine struggled on offense after halftime. The Bears not only shot poorly (23 percent), they turned the ball over 11 times — opening the door for eight Harvard baskets (17 points).
“I think we were just a little careless with the ball,” Blodgett said. “That’s decision-making. Our defense, initially, even if we have a great stop, we can’t go down and make a bad turnover and force us to play defense again.”
Blodgett also pointed out UMaine’s poor shooting in the paint, which included a 2-for-13 effort by center Corinne Wellington.
Shifty point guard Brogan Berry scored 20 points, grabbed six rebounds and handed out six assists to propel Harvard, which also got 17 points and six rebounds from Victoria Lippert. Emma Markley added 12 points and four blocked shots.
The Bears’ balanced effort was paced by Katelyn Vanderhoff, who scored 12 points with five rebounds and three assists. Samantha Wheeler contributed 11 points, six rebounds and four steals, while Amber Smith provided 11 points and five rebounds for UMaine, which outrebounded Harvard 44-38.
“I felt like we played good in spurts, but we need to put it all together and play as one for the whole game, be consistent,” Wellington said.
The Bears led 33-30 early in the second half when Lippert put the Crimson on her shoulders. Lippert hit an eight-foot fallaway from the baseline, then cashed in on a turnover with a driving move to the basket. Another UMaine turnover led to Lippert’s 3-pointer in transition and she capped her nine-point barrage with a 13-footer as Harvard went on top 39-33 with 14:46 to play.
“There’s a couple times where she came off back screens and she caught and fell away and hit the jumper,” Blodgett said. “Sometimes it’s good offense, sometimes it’s poor defense and sometimes it’s a combination of both.”
UMaine responded and battled back within two points (44-42) on Wellington’s fast-break layup off a Sam Wheeler pass, but the hosts would never get any closer.
Harvard eventually scored 10 unanswered points to turn a six-point edge into a 66-50 advantage with 3:44 remaining and the air went completely out of the Bears’ balloon.
“I think it was in our defense,” Vanderhoff said. “We played solid for a good 30 minutes, then at the end we just let them take over on offense and we had no defensive pressure and they just kept putting points up.”
The Bears led 29-28 at halftime after the Crimson had erased a 10-point deficit to take the lead.
UMaine played strong man-to-man defense that was effective in limiting Harvard’s high-percentage chances inside and did a solid job of contesting 3-pointers.
The hosts played well to open the contest while surging to a 14-5 advantage during the first 8:16. The Crimson started out in a 2-3 zone, but didn’t wait long to make the move to man-to-man.
Harvard eventually settled in defensively and forced UMaine to work harder for its shots. That effort helped force the Bears into nine first-half turnovers, eight of which came during the last nine minutes of the half.
The visitors excelled by capitalizing on transition opportunities and eventually pelled off a 13-2 scoring run that gave them a 23-22 lead on Elle Hagedorn’s fast-break layup with 2:12 remaining.
However, the Bears executed well down the stretch and were able to take a lead into the break.
UMaine had 12 of its 14 players available for the contest. Only junior transfer Sheay Longstaff and redshirt freshman Shareka Maner were unable to play as they continue to rehab after minor knee surgery earlier this fall.
Saturday’s game marked the return of former UMaine all-conference guard Missy Traversi, who is now an assistant coach at Harvard. Traversi, a former captain and 1,000-point scorer for the Bears, played for Sharon Versyp at UMaine from 2001-2005.