ORONO, Maine — With nine new players on the roster, there is tremendous competition for playing time on the University of Maine women’s basketball team.
Saturday morning, about 150 fans turned out at Memorial Gym to get a glimpse of coach Richard Barron’s first recruiting class during the annual Blue-White intrasquad scrimmage.
While the freshmen demonstrated considerable skill and potential, one couldn’t help but notice the improvement of the returning players.
Sophomore point guard Courtney Anderson went 7-for-9 from 3-point range and connected for 27 points to lead all scorers during the 40-minute scrimmage. Her long-range prowess was the best example of what appears to be a more proficient perimeter shooting team.
Overall, the Black Bears shot 38 percent (20-for-53) from beyond the 3-point arc.
“There’s nobody on this team that we have to hide,” Barron said. “Everybody has offensive abilities. Everybody can shoot the ball. Everybody can shoot the 3.”
Senior post player Corinne Wellington showed off her expanded game, hitting two 3-pointers amidst 6-for-7 shooting, and grabbed seven rebounds.
“I think she’s far more comfortable facing the basket and handling the ball on the perimeter than she was a year ago,” Barron said. “There’s a more complete aspect to her game.”
Wellington credits her development to offseason training.
“I just feel like I’ve put in the work to take those shots, so now I’m confident enough to take them,” she said.
Junior guard Ashleigh Roberts demonstrated a more well-rounded game, contributing four assists and a steal along with 10 points and seven rebounds, and sophomore forward Danielle Walczak provided 11 points, seven rebounds and three assists.
The team’s improved talent level and depth seem to have benefitted everyone.
“There’s competition on this team,” Barron said. “We’re not pitting one player against another in practice, but that’s just going to naturally raise the bar.”
The freshmen exhibited a wide array of skills in their respective positions. Speedy guard Brittany Wells netted 21 points, including four 3-pointers, while versatile guard Liz Wood contributed 16 points, six rebounds, three assists and four steals.
“We truly are unselfish and I think that anyone on this team can make a shot at any given minute,” Anderson said. “We’re not afraid to give the ball up to anyone.”
Center Anna Heise posted 15 points and four assists, forward Mikaela Gustafsson provided eight points and eight rebounds and guard Lauren Bodine added eight points, four assists and a steal.
“I think you can see a lot of unselfishness on the court,” Wood said. “Coach is really stressing making decisions on who should shoot it, getting the best high-percentage shots that we can.”
Guards Milica Mitrovic (6 points, 6 rebounds), Michal Assaf (8 points), Chantel Charles (3 points, 8 rebounds) also were solid.
The Bears’ offensive balance was a result of their willingness to work together within the confines of their offensive structure.
“There’s a pretty good chemistry,” Wellington said. “We all want to get better and work hard together, so I think that’s a positive.”
Freshman guard Sophie Weckstrom missed the scrimmage with a left foot/ankle injury. Assaf was shaken up diving for a loose ball and did not return after apparently having the wind knocked out of her.
UMaine is gearing up for Thursday’s 7:30 p.m. exhibition game at Alfond Arena against the University of New Brunswick.