The America East tournament has been a forgettable experience in recent years for the University of Maine’s basketball teams.
Coach Ted Woodward’s UMaine men take a 12-16 record into the Newman’s Own America East Men’s and Women’s Basketball Championship at West Hartford, Conn.
The seventh-seeded Black Bears take on No. 2 Vermont (20-11) in Saturday’s 6:05 p.m. quarterfinal at the University of Hartford’s Chase Family Arena. The Catamounts won both regular-season meetings, earning a 79-65 victory Jan. 16 in Burlington, then winning 73-63 on Feb. 6 at Memorial Gym in Orono.
UMaine has lost its last six postseason contests, including last season’s 66-63 quarterfinal setback against host Hartford. The Bears’ last tournament win came in 2005, a quarterfinal victory over Boston University.
UMaine had gone into the America East tournament as the No. 3 seed each of the last two seasons.
The Bears are coming off Sunday’s 55-48 road loss to regular-season champion Stony Brook. UMaine spotted the Seawolves a 15-point lead, then fought back but never could get the game tied.
UMaine, which is a much less experienced group than last season, has lost six of its last seven contests. The Bears ended the 2010-11 campaign by dropping eight of their last nine games.
Should UMaine advance, it would face the winner of Saturday’s 8:15 p.m. semifinal between No. 3 Boston University and No. 6 Hartford.
The Bears’ six America East victories came against teams in the bottom half of the standings. Dating back to last season, they have lost their last 11 games against league teams that finished with a conference record above .500.
Coach Richard Barron’s UMaine women closed out the regular season Saturday with a 45-40 home win over Stony Brook.
The Bears (7-22) will assume a familiar role in the AE tourney as they compete in Thursday’s 6:05 p.m. first-round game — commonly but mistakenly referred to as the play-in game — as the No. 8 seed against No. 9 Stony Brook (4-15).
UMaine makes its fifth consecutive appearance — and sixth in seven seasons — in the first-round game, having lost the previous four. The Bears were quarterfinalists in 2007.
The last UMaine postseason victory came in 2004, when Heather Ernest earned Most Outstanding Player honors and the Bears won the America East title under coach Sharon Versyp.
UMaine’s seniors are motivated to make a good showing in the tournament.
“You don’t want it to end,” said guard Brittany Williams. “We love our team and we want it to last. We definitely want it to last in this tournament. For once, let’s get out of the play-in game.”
The Bears own two wins this season over Stony Brook.
“It’s going to be a challenge because they’re hungry for a win,” Williams said.
Stony Brook coach Beth O’Boyle said both coaching staffs will review the films from the two games and try to find something to exploit.
“I think it’s a little unusual,” she said. “I don’t think you ever want to play a team back to back so close.”
Barron said the approach is simple. That is, play the best you can.
“It really just matters how you play,” he said. “Our kids will be excited to play again. They’ll be ready.”
Bowdoin, USM, UNE earn NCAA berths
Bowdoin College of Brunswick, the University of Southern Maine of Gorham and the University of New England of Biddeford have earned at-large bids to the NCAA Division III Women’s Basketball Championship.
The 21-6 Huskies, runners-up in the Little East Conference, and the 19-7 Polar Bears, semifinalists in the New England Small College Athletic Conference, will play each other Friday at Ithaca, N.Y.
The 22-5 Nor’easters, regular-season champs and tourney semifinalists in the Commonwealth Coast Conference, take on John Hopkins at Medford, Mass., in their first-round contest.
North Atlantic Conference winner Castleton State drew Juniata, a first- and second-round host, for their pairing.