ORONO, Maine — It took less than eight minutes for things to unravel on the University of Maine women’s basketball team.
Siena University outscored the Black Bears 22-6 during the final 7:36 of the first half Thursday night, building a comfortable lead on its way to a 78-51 victory at Alfond Arena.
The Saints (2-7) used an attacking offensive philosophy and effective 2-2-1 full-court pressure to snap a five-game losing streak and send UMaine (3-10) to its seventh consecutive defeat.
Coach Richard Barron’s Black Bears committed 24 turnovers and struggled at the defensive end of the floor, which prevented them from staying with the Saints.
“It was a very disappointing performance,” Barron said.
Conversely, Siena put together a well-rounded effort. The Saints of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference gained the upper hand in the first half behind its 2-2-1 pressure, which had a hand in disrupting UMaine’s offense and forcing some of the turnovers.
“We weren’t doing a good job getting the ball inbounds and that’s both the guards’ and the inbounders’ fault,” said freshman Danielle Walczak, who paced UMaine with a career-best 13 points and grabbed six rebounds.
“Once we got the pressure, we were turning the ball over and we shouldn’t have done that,” she added. “We need to keep our heads better.”
Barron pointed out that primary inbounders Shareka Maner (neck/shoulder), Samantha Wheeler (post-concussion symptoms) and Amber Smith (illness) all missed the game with ailments.
The Saints scored 28 points after UMaine turnovers.
In addition to capitalizing on the turnovers with its transition offense, Siena also spread the floor effectively and was able to get into the paint either with dribble penetration or well-placed entry passes.
“I obviously didn’t expect this [lopsided score], but I’m glad it was such a good win for us,” said Siena coach Gina Castelli.
The Bears were ineffective on defense, whether playing man-to-man or their 2-3 matchup zone. They also had trouble transitioning from offense to defense.
“We were slow to get back to begin with, so they were just a step ahead of us and got the shot they wanted to take,” said senior Samantha Baranowski, who contributed 10 points, five rebounds, two assists and two steals.
UMaine started well and led 22-21 on Courtney Anderson’s 3-pointer with 8:15 left in the first half. It was all downhill from there.
Siena ended the period with a game-changing 22-6 scoring run. Maja Gerlyng (13 points, 6 rebounds) hit a 3-pointer, a 19-footer and three free throws to spearhead the charge.
Already leading by four, Gerlyng hit a long jumper at the 3:46 mark to spark an 11-0 spurt. Lilyn Grenci (20 points, 8 rebounds) converted a baseline move, then Gerlyng sank three free throws after getting fouled on a 3-pointer.
“I think the problem was, a lot of the close-range shots they were getting were second-chance shots and that’s because we weren’t boxing out,” Walczak said.
Cristina Centeno (14 points, 6 assists, 5 steals) then drove the baseline for a hoop and Tehresa Coles (12 points, 5 assists, 6 steals) scored on a fast-break layup as time expired. That gave Siena a 43-28 halftime advantage.
“That stretch at the end there, our transition defense was just atrocious, even on made baskets,” Barron said.
UMaine didn’t score during the last 3:55 of the first half, committing three turnovers, then had three more miscues to open the second half before Walczak’s 15-footer from the baseline ended a scoring drought of 8 minutes, 16 seconds.
By that juncture, Siena had extended its lead to 48-28.
Siena outscored UMaine 16-10 from the foul line and outrebounded the Bears 37-29 to score 14 second-chance points.
“They had 17 offensive rebounds, we had 17 defensive rebounds,” Barron said. “Half the rebounds on their missed shots, they got. That’s unacceptable.”
Anderson (7 assists), Rebecca Knight of Alfred and Ashleigh Roberts added six points apiece.
UMaine must now regroup and begin preparing for Monday’s America East opener at Binghamton. The game is part of a doubleheader with the UMaine and Binghamton men’s teams.
The Bears can do nothing but continue to work hard and maintain an optimistic outlook for the rest of the season.
“This is a prime example of what we don’t want to continue doing, so I guess that’s how we could look at it moving forward,” Baranowski said. “It weighs on you, but if you want to be successful, you’ve got to find a way to not think about all the negative aspects.”