ORONO, Maine — The University of Maine women’s basketball team is going back to the future Saturday afternoon.
Coach Richard Barron’s 1-1 Black Bears, coming off Sunday’s victory at Rhode Island, play their first game at Memorial Gymnasium when they take on Bryant University. Tipoff is 1 p.m.
There will be a free pregame poster giveaway and a team autograph signing session after the game.
Some of UMaine’s veterans aren’t sure exactly what to expect in Memorial Gym, having previously played all their home games in Alfond Arena.
“It’s going to be different,” said senior point guard Brittany Williams, who is second-highest points scorer on the team, averaging 14 points per game. “At the same time, we practice there all the time and we’re used to the court.”
The familiarity aspect should benefit UMaine, which spends countless hours inside the gym, affectionately known as “The Pit,” for formal practices or preseason and offseason pickup games.
“Right here feels like home. It feels like just another day,” said sophomore guard Ashleigh Roberts, the Bears’ top scorer (15.5 ppg) and rebounder (7.0 rpg).
“If anything, the rims are a little more comfortable just because we’re here all the time.”
Freshman guard Courtney Anderson of Greene is really looking forward to playing in the Pit after watching a game in the facility recently.
“I like the Pit a lot,” said Anderson, a former Leavitt High School standout.
“When I went to the guys’ game in there, there was a lot of energy, it was really loud,” Anderson said. “The atmosphere, I’m hoping, will be pretty good.”
The Bryant game is one of only four scheduled at Memorial Gym for the UMaine women. The others are Maine Maritime Academy on Nov. 29, James Madison on Dec. 8, and New Hampshire on Jan. 25.
UMaine has not played a home game in the Pit since March 2, 1988, when coach Peter Gavett’s team beat New Hampshire 82-76.
The Bears played at the Bangor Auditorium from the start of the 1988 season through Jan. 23, 1992, when Trish Roberts’ team moved to the renovated Alfond Arena. That has been UMaine’s permanent home ever since.
“It’ll be cool playing in the facility that we actually practice in, that’ll be nice,” Roberts said.
UMaine women build on win
The Black Bears are looking to build on their first victory of the season, realizing there is plenty of work to be done.
UMaine dropped a five-point decision Nov. 11 at Central Connecticut, but held off Rhode Island for a win on Sunday.
“We know we were kind of lucky to come out of that one alive,” Roberts said of the URI game. “We have a lot that we could work on.”
The Bears have had some turnover difficulties (19.5 per game) and haven’t been efficient at the foul line, shooting 53 percent (24-for-45).
UMaine also must re-emphasize its defense, rebounding and offensive execution.
“If we can get stuff like that correct in the future, we can win some games,” Williams said.
The 5-foot-7 guard was the Bears’ catalyst at URI, scoring a career-best 19 points despite having to sit out after being injured midway through the second half.
The speedy guard is trying to set a positive tone while boosting her scoring output.
“Coach Barron, he’s told me that if I’m going to play a lot, I have to be a lot more productive, a scoring threat,” Williams said.
Barron has been utilizing nine players on a regular basis thus far in an attempt to provide much-needed experience and see what the players can do.
Among those who have worked their way into the guard rotation is hustling freshman Anderson.
“I was expecting to play, but I think I got more minutes than I expected,” said Anderson, who is averaging six points, two rebounds, three assists and a steal while shooting 57 percent from the floor.
“I think a lot of us are trying to make the most of our opportunities and that the minutes we get, they’re being put to good use,” she added.