ORONO, Maine — The University of Maine women’s basketball team won’t play at Alfond Arena again until next year.
Coach Richard Barron hopes by the time the Black Bears return, they’re performing much better than they did Saturday afternoon.
Virginia Commonwealth stymied the University of Maine with a cohesive 2-3 zone defense and utilized their overall quickness to attack the basket on the offensive end while posting a 74-58 victory over the Black Bears.
“I just think we didn’t give anywhere near the kind of consistent effort throughout the game that we needed to and we certainly didn’t do it on the defensive end,” said a disappointed Barron.
Agile forward Robyn Parks connected for 22 points and grabbed 12 rebounds to propel the Rams (2-3), who forced many of the Black Bears’ 23 turnovers — which led to 20 VCU points.
Parks also registered five steals, two assists and a blocked shot in a dominating performance.
“She’s extremely athletic. She’s a hard worker,” said VCU coach Marlene Stollings. “We’ve challenged her to get a double-double per game and I think she’s [done it] three games in a row now.”
UMaine (1-5) had tremendous difficulty trying to work against VCU’s defense early as the Rams manufactured an 11-point lead 7 1/2 minutes into the contest.
VCU pushed its advantage to 35-17 and the Bears, who committed 14 first-half turnovers, never fully recovered.
Zakia Williams scored 16 points for VCU while Janniina Voivunen (7 rebounds) and Kaneisha Atwater netted 11 each.
The Rams shot 43 percent (26-for-60) from the field and outscored the Bears 16-6 from the foul line. They had 19 turnovers, but ourebounded the Bears 41-37.
Freshman guard Brittany Wells paced UMaine with 14 points while classmate Liz Wood provided nine points and four rebounds. Sophomore Danielle Walczak (5 rebounds) and freshman Anna Heise (4 rebounds, 3 assists) tallied eight points each.
Ten different players logged at least 12 minutes of action for the Bears.
“He [Barron] wasn’t too happy,” Wells said. “Our effort level wasn’t at its best and what it should be. We knew coming in it was going to be a hard game and they showed that they wanted it more than we do.”
In spite of their struggles, UMaine trailed by only five points (50-45) after a 9-2 spurt early in the second half.
Walczak converted an up-and-under move to open the run, then Ashleigh Roberts sank two free throws. Heise followed with a low-post basket off an assist by Walczak.
Parks countered for VCU with a hoop from underneath, but Wood drained a 3-pointer to make it a five-point game with 16:55 remaining.
“The little run we made was when we actually started making some interior passes, when we had some inside-out action,” Barron said. “It just went away.”
He wasn’t happy with the play of his post players, who Barron said were careless with the ball and weren’t aggressive.
Parks helped make sure the Bears’ momentum was fleeting.
Williams got things moving with an eight-footer in transition, before Parks hit a short jumper, made two foul shots and sank a floater from the lane during a 10-0 burst that restored VCU’s advantage to 60-45 with 13:12 to play.
“We needed to focus on not letting her [Parks] get the ball entirely, rather than trying to defend her once she had the ball because she’s very athletic,” Walczak said.
The Bears had their hands full trying to solve the overall quickness of the Rams, who forged a 44-34 halftime lead.
VCU stymied UMaine much of the first half with a swarming 2-3 zone that caused several deflections and resulted in many of the Bears’ 14 turnovers.
“I thought an emphasis coming into the game was our defensive pressure,” Stollings said. “We wanted to create a lot of deflections and in our charting of that we had 29 for the game which resulted in 18 points for us.”
The Rams also were able to attack the basket well in transition and got to the foul line, where they went 10-for-14 in the half.
The Bears were able to maintain solid ball pressure with their switching man-to-man defense, although VCU did connect for four 3-pointers. However, the Rams had 10 turnovers of their own.
Wells helped UMaine hang around as she oured in 12 points, including two 3-pointers, in only seven minutes of action.
The speedy Wells scored three consecutive baskets during a span of 1:14, including a 3-pointer that cut VCU’s lead to 35-24 with 2:46 left in the half.
UMaine returns to action Dec. 1 at Florida Gulf Coast in the first of eight straight games away from Orono.