It was a roller coaster six days for the University of Maine women’s basketball team.
Monday night, UMaine ended the frustration of an 11-game losing streak by earning a 70-60 victory over Vermont at Alfond Arena.
One could sense the relief of the players, whose smiles and hugs reflected their joy.
“It always feels good to win,” said senior forward Samantha Baranowski, who registered a career best with 18 points in Monday’s win. “We’ve just got to make sure that we do use it to build and don’t take any steps backwards. We’ve got a big opportunity against Hartford and then Stony Brook on the road, so [we need to] take advantage of it.”
Enjoyable as the moment was, nobody tried to read too much into it.
“There’s still a lot of lessons to be learned, but it’s great when you can learn lessons without losing,” said UMaine head coach Richard Barron. “This will be a nice game to teach from because we had some things that were very positive that we can show them and also some mistakes in close games that we need to do a better job [of eliminating].”
UMaine already has equaled its win total from last season. With 11 regular-season games remaining, the Bears will have plenty of opportunities to win more games.
Among the positives from Monday’s victory were the reduced number of turnovers by UMaine and its ability to execute well on the offensive end.
The Bears’ 14 turnovers were the second fewest of the season. UMaine’s guards combined to commit only five in the game.
Courtney Anderson of Greene had none in 31 minutes and Brittany Williams made one in 36 minutes.
“There’s a big difference with turnovers because of violations and turnovers that lead to steals,” Barron said. “The ones that lead to baskets the other way are very important to avoid.”
UMaine ran its half-court offense quite well, especially in the first half of Monday’s game. The Bears shot 52 percent (14-for-27) on the way to 44 percent for the game.
Aided by the absence of Vermont junior post player Lauren Buschmann because of a knee injury, UMaine was able to get the ball into the post consistently with better cuts and crisper passes.
One of the key cogs in the operation was Becca Knight of Alfred. The freshman swing player demonstrated aggressive play handling the ball and finding lanes to the basket without the ball.
“Becca’s got some big games in front of her in her career at Maine,” Barron said of the former McAuley High standout, who sat out the previous two games with a hyperextended left (shooting) elbow.
“She’s still learning what her abilities are,” he said. “She’s starting to see her potential and the impact she made coming back for this game was significant in terms of the speed that we have and the athleticism on the wing.”
Baranowski also has been a steadying force of late for the Bears. She has scored in double figures in four of UMaine’s five America East games.
The 6-foot-3 forward is averaging 12.2 points and 5.2 rebounds in conference play and her .553 field-goal percentage (21-for-38) ranks third in league action.
She went 8-for-10 from the foul line in the last two minutes Monday to help UMaine secure its victory.
“She kept her composure and kept her confidence,” Barron said.
“She definitely made some big free throws down the stretch and she had a great pass to Becca on ‘whatever,’ that’s what we call our out-of-bounds play.”