BANGOR — Defensive intensity was the difference Friday night during the first round of the Paul Bunyan Classic.
Bates College of Lewiston and host Husson University hounded their opponents into a combined 83 turnovers while cruising to victories at Newman Gymnasium.
The Bobcats had a hand in forcing 49 turnovers by the University of Maine-Presque Isle en route to a 71-33 win, while the Eagles hounded UMaine-Fort Kent into some of its 34 miscues to post an 88-58 victory.
On Saturday, Bates and UMFK square off at 12:30 p.m., with Husson and UMPI to play the 3 p.m. finale of the non-championship event.
In Friday’s second game, North Atlantic Conference member Husson used denying defense, transition offense and 3-point shooting to earn its first win of the season.
Bree Hanscom’s tenacious inside play spearheaded coach Kissy Walker’s Eagles (1-3) to a 44-21 halftime advantage and the hosts maintained a strong presence even while utilizing their bench extensively.
Hanscom, a junior from Mattawamkeag, scored 13 points before intermission and led a quintet of Husson double-figure scorers with 16 points. She also grabbed six rebounds and handed out seven assists.
“It felt good to have a win, we really needed one,” said the former Mattanawcook Academy standout. “We’re going into Bowdoin next week and it feels nice to get a win under our belt. We needed some confidence going into that game.”
Bethany Sevey of Skowhegan scored 13 points and Amanda Gifford of Lee contributed 12 points and seven assists, while Noelle Lincoln of Dixmont and Marissa Albert of Fort Kent chipped in with 11 points each. Stephanie Comstock of Bangor added eight points, seven rebounds and four steals.
Husson shot 45 percent from the field (34-for-75), including 44 percent on 12-for-27 accuracy behind the 3-point arc in Walker’s new offense.
“I’m enjoying it so far because there’s a lot of movement,” Walker said. “We’re still working on trying to give-and-go and fill and cut through. I think that was good for the kids to shoot well tonight to help their confidence a little bit.”
Freshman guard Jenn Colpitts of Scarborough poured in a game-high 24 points to propel UMFK (0-3), an NAIA member that plays in the Sunrise Conference. Maliesha Caesar registered a double-double with 14 points and 10 rebounds.
Coach Lucas Levesque’s Bengals shot only 35 percent from the field and weren’t able to work around their turnover difficulties. The Eagles scored 28 points directly off UMFK turnovers.
Husson played scrappy man-to-man defense and also applied full-court pressure off made baskets in the early going. The defense set the tone for the Eagles’ transition success.
UMFK led 6-4 when Husson rattled off 15 unanswered points in less than four minutes. Gifford made a scoop shot from the lane, then Hanscom converted a Sevey assist in the lane and later sank two free throws.
Hanscom followed with a three-point play, then fed Kelli Murray for a low-post hoop before scoring two layups as Husson made it 19-6 with 13:24 to play.
“It’s just pass and move, pass and cut,” Hanscom said of the offense. “With movement comes helping (on defense), because some people are going to have to double. You’ve just got to find the open person.”
The Bengals made 17 turnovers and were not able to establish much offensive continuity, although Colpitts scored 15 of their 21 first-half points.
In the first game, Bates demonstrated the kind of defensive intensity necessary to compete in the powerhouse New England Small College Athletic Conference while overwhelming the Owls of the Sunrise Conference.
Coach Jim Murphy’s team (5-1) built the victory around its defense, despite a lackluster offensive performance.
“We tell them all the time we want to create havoc on defense but (have) composure on offense, but we just rushed things,” Murphy said.
“It’s just one of those crazy games. Hey, we’ll take it,” he added.
The Bobcats converted the UMPI turnovers into 35 points.
Freshman Meredith Kelly paced the Bobcats with 18 points, seven rebounds and nine assists. Allie Beaulieu tossed in 11 points to go with four assists and four steals, while Christine McCall and Kelsey Flaherty added nine points each. Bates outrebounded UMPI 36-27.
The Owls (1-3) could not work around their turnover woes. They attempted only 35 field goals and shot 40 percent for the game.
Emily Pelletier of Fort Kent scored nine points for a youthful UMPI squad, which received gritty efforts from Rashell Saucier of Washburn (eight points, six rebounds) and Renee Moore of Lisbon (seven points, seven rebounds).
The Owls have 10 freshmen and sophomores among 13 roster members.
Bates built a commanding 38-14 advantage as the Owls committed 29 turnovers in the face of the Bobcats’ man-to-man pressure.
The Bobcats trailed 6-3 when they kicked off a 13-0 run on a 10-footer by Jessie Igoe at the 15:59 mark. Annie Burns made a 3-pointer 1:14 later, before Kelly scored the next 10 points of the contest to put the Bobcats in front 18-6 with 10:35 to play.
Bates went on to outscore UMPI 12-2 over the final 4:44 of the half to put itself in charge.
The Bobcats finished with 20 turnovers of their own.
“You’ve got to get ready for the Bowdoins, the Colbys, the Amhersts,” Murphy said in evaluating the effort. “When you’re turning the ball over and there’s nobody around, those are the turnovers that are troublesome.”
UMPI shot 55 percent from the floor in the first half, but managed only 11 field-goal attempts.