The University of Maine turned in one good performance and one subpar effort during the Navy Classic last Friday and Saturday in Annapolis, Md.
The Black Bears dropped a 54-46 decision Friday to George Washington of the Colonial Athletic Association, then lost 73-56 to host Navy in Saturday’s contest.
UMaine is back at work this week preparing for Thursday’s 6 p.m. nonconference game against James Madison at Memorial Gym in Orono.
Coach Richard Barron saw some growth by his team at Navy, but it continues to be slow.
“It was probably a weekend where we took a step forward, a step backward,” Barron said.
He explained UMaine demonstrated solid preparation and played fairly well against the Colonials.
For starters, the Bears cut back on turnovers (15) and showed some flashes of running their offensive sets.
“We handled the ball against a bigger, more athletic team that pressured and ran a matchup zone and we got good shots, we executed,” Barron said.
The difference was shooting, as George Washington went 7-for-11 on 3-pointers. The Bears, who held a 48-40 rebounding edge, didn’t connect when needed.
“In the end, we didn’t make open shots and they did,” Barron said.
UMaine didn’t fare nearly as well on short rest and preparation against the Midshipmen.
Navy shot 53 percent overall, including 55 percent (12-for-22) from the 3-point arc. The Bears did not adhere to their defensive principles.
“I don’t think we were particularly sharp on either end of the floor,” Barron said. “We got lost a lot defensively.”
The Bears committed only 13 turnovers in that game, but did not have enough players performing well to seriously challenge Navy.
Among the bright spots were seniors Samantha Baranowski and Samantha Wheeler.
Baranowski, a 6-foot-3 forward, averaged 11 points and 6.5 rebounds at Navy in 26 minutes per game. She shot 11-for-19 from the field (.579).
“Sam Baranowski played her best basketball of the season,” Barron said. “I thought her interior defense was good and her interior offense, that was very good.”
Baranowski finished with 14 points on 7-for-9 shooting and five rebounds against Navy.
Wheeler, a 6-1 forward, continues to show glimpses of the player who earned All-America East second-team accolades as a sophomore during 2009-10.
She played 22.5 minutes per game last weekend, averaging 7.5 points and 6.5 rebounds. Wheeler pulled down 11 offensive boards in the two games.
“She really scrapped and got some offensive rebounds and putbacks. She was good on the offensive end in terms of hustle and intensity,” Barron said.
He said Wheeler not only is trying to regain her feel for the game after missing almost an entire year with postconcussion symptoms, but is learning how she fits into this team’s mix.
“Offensively, she’s somebody who can play the three or the four, so there’s more for her to learn,” Barron said. “It’s hard to step in and pick up with everybody else.”
In spite of the efforts by Baranowski and Wheeler, it isn’t nearly enough to carry this particular team. The Bears are only going to win when they have several players performing at a similarly high level.
“We’re not a team that can get by with just a couple people playing well,” Barron said. “We need everyone to consistently elevate their play.”
The group of players who are able to demonstrate an aptitude for playing Barron’s system and who can do it game in and game out will reap the benefits.
“We’re trying to figure out what we’ve got here while we’re still in the nonconference season so we can maybe shorten the rotation down and extend those minutes [for the people who are meeting the challenge].”
Barron plans Time Out luncheons
Coach Barron has planned a series of four Time Out luncheons this season during which fans and people in the community can sit down with him and talk basketball over lunch.
The luncheons will be held from 12 to 1:30 p.m. in the Epic Buffet at Hollywood Slots on Main Street in Bangor. They are scheduled for this Wednesday, then again Jan. 10, Feb. 7, and March 1, all in 2012.
The cost of the luncheon is $15. Participants are encouraged to enter through the hotel lobby.
Nowhere to go but up
UMaine remains near the bottom looking up at the rest of Division I women’s basketball — at least according to the unofficial Rating Percentage Index compiled by RPIRatings.com.
The Black Bears checked in Monday at No. 315 among 342 Division I programs. The calculation has been altered this year to reflect the formula that has been used for men’s basketball since 2004-05.
America East is 12th out of 33 conferences in the initial listing, led by Hartford (29), Maryland Baltimore County (97) and Albany (125). Stony Brook (157), New Hampshire (158), Binghamton (168), Vermont (286) and Boston University (281) all came in ahead of UMaine.
Last season, UMaine finished ranked 334th out of 343 teams.