WEST HARTFORD, Conn. — A season’s worth of struggles are seldom resolved in one postseason game.
For the University of Maine, the same problems that plagued them during the regular season led to another hasty exit from the America East women’s basketball tournament.
Eighth-seeded Stony Brook took advantage of its quickness to capitalize on many of the University of Maine’s 22 turnovers and dominated the rebounding Friday night while running to a 76-55 first-round victory over the Black Bears at the University of Hartford’s Chase Family Arena.
UMaine closed out the season 4-23 and lost in the first round of the tournament for the fourth consecutive year. Coach Cindy Blodgett said her team was unable to overcome its youthful mistakes.
“There’s obviously been struggles and difficulties along the way,” she said. “It’s very easy to get caught up in a record, and certainly none of us is pleased with that outcome, but in terms of our young players getting an opportunity to play, they were thrown into the fire throughout the season.”
Stony Brook (7-22) advances to take on No. 1 Maryland Baltimore County in Friday’s 6:05 p.m. quarterfinal game.
The Seawolves scored 27 points as a result of the Bears’ turnovers and outrebounded UMaine 47-35 to post a lopsided victory.
“In the past, our press and our trapping has worked against them,” said Stony Brook senior Kirsten Jeter, who poured in 26 points and contributed eight rebounds, four assists and five steals.
“(Our emphasis) was to pressure teams because once we pressure and we get our steals, we’re great in transition,” she added.
The Seawolves outscored the Bears 12-3 over the last 2 1/2 minutes of the first half to surge into the locker room with a 41-26 advantage. It was SBU’s most productive offensive half of the season.
UMaine committed 14 turnovers, which led directly to 19 Stony Brook points and provided the impetus for the big lead. The Seawolves also scored 12 second-chance points with tenacious rebounding on the offensive end.
“It’s our turnovers,” junior Brittany Williams said of the Bears’ struggles. “We have to be consistent with the ball and take care of it, because they’re going to score off our turnovers. That’s going to kind of tear us down.”
Stony Brook shot 50 percent (18-for-36) from the floor and attempted 14 more field goals in the first 20 minutes. The Seawolves were able to attack the paint both on entry passes and off the dribble, which netted them a 22-8 advantage on points in the paint.
Blodgett pointed out the majority of the Bears’ turnovers did not come in the face of Stony Brook’s pressure.
“For whatever reason, we tended to turn the ball over this evening once we crossed half-court and got into our own half-court set,” she explained. “Many of those turnovers resulted in transition points for them.”
Sam Landers tossed in 13 points for the Seawolves, who shot 46 percent from the field. Juanita Cochran contributed eight points and eight rebounds, while Tamiel Murray added six points, nine rebounds, four assists and four steals.
Stony Brook, which shot 8-for-18 from 3-point range, had 17 turnovers that led to 14 UMaine points.
Williams sparked UMaine with 13 points and Ashleigh Roberts posted 11 points and five rebounds. Katelyn Vanderhoff added nine points.
“I think our turnovers, obviously, hurt us from the very beginning,” Blodgett said. “I thought they also did a great job on the boards. We obviously didn’t play as well as we would have liked and the result speaks for itself.”
The Seawolves pulled away near the end of the first half, after a Tanna Ross 3-pointer had pulled the Bears within 31-26 with 2:04 remaining.
Cochran opened the SBU run with a runner in the lane, then Jeter sank two foul shots and converted a UMaine turnover with a putback. Murray then scored on an eight-footer from the paint, off another turnover, before Talisha Bridges scored on an offensive rebound with two seconds left in the half to push the lead to 15 points.
“They bring the best out of me,” Jeter said. “They’re not a team to let up on, you have to keep attacking them.”
The Seawolves ended the suspense but scoring the first nine points of the second half — amidst a 19-0 run that began in the first half — to make it 50-26 with 16:27 left.
Earlier Thursday, UMaine had only one player recognized during the America East awards reception held on the University of Hartford campus.
Roberts claimed a spot on the America East All-Rookie team. The 5-foot-9 freshman guard from Wilmington, Del., averaged a team-leading 10.7 points per game and also contributed 4.4 rebounds, 1.8 assists and 1.1 steals.
Roberts is a hard-charging offensive player who excels taking the ball to the basket. That trait earned her numerous trips to the foul line, where she converted 94 of 130 attempts (72 percent).
She also committed 137 turnovers, an average of 4.9 per contest.
Black Bears redshirt freshman Amber Smith, who averaged 10.2 points and 4.3 rebounds and shot 82 percent from the foul line, did not earn All-Rookie recognition.
Sophomore guard Chantell Alford of Boston Unviersity was named the AE Player of the Year, Ebony Henry of Albany was named the Defensive Player of the YEar and Binghamton’s Jasbriell Swain was the Rookie of the Year.
Phil Stern, who guided Maryland Baltimore County to the league regular-season title and the top tourney seed, was chosen Coach of the Year.