ORONO, Maine — Teaching, teaching and more teaching.
That was the order of the day Wednesday afternoon during the University of Maine women’s basketball team practice at Memorial Gymnasium.
Coach Richard Barron and his assistants put the Black Bears through a session that stressed the players’ need to continue focusing on the details — in all aspects of the game — that will help them succeed.
“There are a lot of things that we’re working on and the obvious thing is that we’re not executing successfully enough to win,” Barron said. “I think it’s just really about our efficiency.”
UMaine was preparing for Thursday’s 6 p.m. game against Siena at Alfond Arena. It will mark the Bears’ final tuneup before beginning America East play with a Jan. 2 contest at Binghamton University in Vestal, N.Y.
The players are hoping to use the game as a springboard.
“We just want to end it on a good note before we go into conference,” said senior tri-captain Brittany Williams. “We’re working hard to get to that spot. For us to get into the conference and be capable of winning, we have to work hard at it. We’re expecting some good things.”
Barron said the team has plateaued after making some good gains during the preseason and early season. He and his staff have re-evaluated their approach after making some concessions about the players’ abilities.
“We’ve just got to give them a chance to get better,” Barron said. “It’s going to take a lot of time.”
UMaine has struggled in several areas, but turnovers is the most significant. As a result of their 20-plus turnovers per game and lack of execution, the Bears are only scoring on about 20 percent of their offensive possessions.
With Wednesday’s workout as proof, the UMaine staff has tried to take a more low-key approach to teaching. Barron frequently stopped drills to point out mistakes and teach proper techniques or positioning.
He seldom raised his voice.
Barron said that earlier in the season, the coaches were trying to expedite growth by motivating the players. Now it’s a different approach.
“At this point in the season, we’re trying to make sure that what we do as coaches actually helps,” he said. “If we’re screaming and yelling and pointing out the mistakes in a way that hurts their confidence even more, it’s not constructive.”
As for the players, they seem to realize the process is going to pay dividends. It’s simply a matter of time.
“You’re always going to be learning, but I feel like we still have a lot to learn, especially adjusting to everything that he [Barron] wants to teach us,” said senior Samantha Baranowski. “We could do a better job of picking it up a little quicker, but we still need to work on it.”
Wheeler, Maner sidelined
The Bears had only 11 of 14 players available for Wednesday’s practice. The exceptions were senior forward Samantha Wheeler, junior forward Shareka Maner and sophomore center Ali Nalivaika.
Wheeler missed UMaine’s two games at the Florida Gator Classic last week after she began to experience head problems. She had been playing well (7.3 points, 5.0 rebounds per game) since returning from a nearly yearlong hiatus with postconcussion symptoms, but she is again sidelined.
Maner is out with an undisclosed ailment. She scored a career-high 13 points in UMaine’s Dec. 21 loss to Charleston Southern in Florida and is averaging 5.2 points and 5.0 rebounds.
Nalivaika is doing rehabilitation after knee surgery and is out for the season.