ORONO, Maine — After Saturday’s 65-53 loss to Bryant University, Maine women’s basketball coach Richard Barron thanked the crowd for coming and promised the team would be better in the future.
“We want to have that connection with the fans,” said Barron. “They did their job today. … We have to thank them, acknowledge them.”
Following a quick trip to the locker room, the Bears returned to Memorial Gym to sign autographs.
“We’re going to do everything we can can right,” said Barron “Unfortunately, we didn’t do enough right today.”
The Bryant Bulldogs (2-1) picked up the tempo and disrupted Maine’s offense after the Black Bears, playing their home opener and their first game in “The Pit” since 1993, opened with a 5-0 run in the first 1 1/2 minutes.
Bryant posted an 11-0 run over the next 4 1/2 minutes and led the rest of the way.
The Bulldogs pushed the lead to 23-10, and their margin never dropped below 11 after that.
“A point of emphasis was to come out strong,” said Bryant coach Mary Burke. “I thought the players met the challenge.
“This was a big step forward for us.”
Each time the Bears (1-2) tried to get a run of their own going, Bryant was able to blunt it, either making steals or causing turnovers.
“Our players don’t have a very good, kind of instinctive sense of how to attack a zone in terms of motion,” said Barron. “(It’s) something we’ve been working on.”
Maine’s Ashleigh Roberts, who scored a team-high 10 points, acknowledged the problem.
“On both ends, I didn’t feel like we were really in sync,” the sophomore guard said.
Freshman guard Courtney Anderson of Greene hit some baskets, including two 3-pointers, but she said it wasn’t what the Bears needed.
“It’s always good to knock down shots,” said Anderson, “but our main job on offense was to get the ball inside and we didn’t do that. You can see how the execution went based on the outcome.”
Bryant recorded 15 steals, while the Bears made just five. The Bears also committed 24 turnovers, the Bulldogs 17.
“Our turnovers were just killers,” said Barron, adding, “We did a poor job attacking the glass offensively. They had 26 points off turnovers to our 13, 13 second-chance points to our four. Two completely different categories, you add those up, it’s 22 points.”
He saw few positives.
“We had a couple of defensive possessions in the second half I thought were positive,” he said.
He also cited the first set play in the second half.
“Brittany Williams got a layup out of that. That was good to see,” he said.
Forward Naana Ankoma-Mensa scored a game-high 20 points and guards Douglas Danielle and Courtney Schissler added 17 each to pace the Bulldogs. Guard Meredith Soper grabbed 11 rebounds and made six steals, both game highs.
Roberts was the only Black Bear in double figures, while guard Brittany Williams and Anderson posted eight apiece. Forward Shareka Maner was the top rebounder with five. Forward Corinne Wellington added seven points and four rebounds.
The Bears did shoot well from the free-throw line, hitting 10 of 13 (77 percent), but even there they were stymied because they couldn’t get the ball inside enough to draw more fouls. Bryant shot worse from the line but scored more (13-for-21) because the Bulldogs were able to draw more shooting fouls.
Maine hosts the Dead River Classic later this week at Alfond Arena. The Bears face Troy at 6 p.m. Friday after Brown and Evansville (Ind.) play at 4 p.m. The winners play Saturday at 2 p.m., following the noon consolation game.