ORONO, Maine — Ten plays.
The way coach Richard Barron figures it, if his team had made five fewer turnovers that led to points and hit five more shots in Saturday’s game against Virginia Commonwealth, it could have been a victory for the University of Maine.
Instead, the Black Bears suffered a 74-58 setback and slipped to 1-5.
“I thought it was maybe our poorest effort of the season,” Barron said after the game. “It’s extremely disappointing, considering we were playing at home and (had) a chance to really get some momentum here to build off what was a positive weekend (at the Minnesota tournament).”
Barron explained the Black Bears weren’t executing well at either end of the court.
They committed 23 turnovers operating against VCU’s 2-3 zone. The defense often struggled to stop dribble penetration and didn’t deny talented forward Robyn Parks from getting the ball.
But 10 plays could have changed the outcome.
“They have to realize how important those 10 plays are and how critical it is to get it right,” Barron said. “Those are 10 plays that we can easily correct.”
While physical execution was an issue, Barron wants his players to exhibit more confidence and swagger in how they play.
“The cumulative effect was that we didn’t play with enough aggression,” he said. “It’s a mentality. We were far too reactive in this game.”
While there appears to be considerable talent on this year’s ballclub, UMaine is dealing with tremendous inexperience. There are nine first-year players and two sophomores among the 13 women suiting up for UMaine.
Barron and his staff have been forced to do a lot of teaching of fundamentals and concepts of the offenses and defenses the Black Bears are running, but they also are trying to instill the kind of mental approach needed to succeed at the Division I level.
“It’s not so much quantifiable physical effort, it’s competitiveness,” Barron said. “You have to want to win every possession. You have to want to win every drill.”
The newness of attending college, adjusting to a higher level of play and trying to develop a winning mentality is not easy on a team that has only one senior and one junior on the floor.
The staff’s emphasis has been on teaching concepts effectively, pointing out mistakes with film review and trying to implement changes in the next practice or game. The coaches are maintaining high standards.
“It’s a tightrope,” Barron said. “I think if you don’t expect a lot you’re cheating them. If you expect too much, you’re setting yourself up for failure.”
Sophomore forward Danielle Walczak knows what the expectations are after playing for Barron last season. She conceded it can be a challenge not to become discouraged.
“If you looked at us from Day 1 to now, we’re definitely [moving] in an upward direction, but there’s definitely some major things that we need to work on,” Walczak said. “I think one of the biggest things is just keeping our morale up with such a young team.”
The freshmen, including six from Europe and the Middle East, must deal with being thousands of miles from home in addition to establishing their roles on the team.
Walczak and Barron both pointed to the importance of learning how to stay motivated and maximize practice effort as a key to this team’s growth.
“It’s a lot about energy and mental focus,” Walczak said. “I think the freshmen are doing a good job adjusting and we’re trying to keep them up there [emotionally].”
Barron said the chemistry among the players has contributed to the team’s resilience.
“They’re very comfortable with each other off the floor, they get along well, so that’s a nice foundation for them moving forward,” said Barron, who hopes to see significant improvement and some wins as the Black Bears continue their nonleague schedule.
Black Bears honor Bodwell
The UMaine women’s basketball team is honoring a longtime donor and supporter of the program and the university by wearing a patch on their uniforms.
The Bears’ uniforms have a small black patch with the letters “BB” on it in memory of Barbara Bodwell, who died in October at the age of 89.
“They have always been very loyal supporters. Barbara and Russ [Bodwell] were some of the first people I met when we came to Maine,” Barron said of the couple. “I have tremendous respect for them. They have done so much at Maine.”
Barbara Bodwell established the Bodwell Center for Service and Volunteerism on the UMaine campus and, along with Russell, earned the Stillwater Presidential Award from the University of Maine in 2010.
Barron said the Bodwells also have funded the Bodwell Conference Room for UMaine’s College of Engineering and Bodwell Lounge in the Collins Center for the Arts.
“It was a sad day when we lost her, but I’m very happy that we were able to do it with the patch,” said Barron, who explained the Bodwells have supported women’s basketball with the Cindy Blodgett Fund, an endowment used to defray student-atheltes’ expenses while taking summer classes.
“It can be whatever we need toward books and things like that,” Barron said. “It’s a gift that they’ve continued to endow, so the proceeds off that are something that we can use on an annual basis. It’s great that we have that resource.”
‘Time Out’ luncheons to begin
Barron will again this season be holding a series of “Time Out” luncheons for UMaine fans.
Those who would like more insight on the Black Bears are invited to attend the season’s first luncheon Wednesday from noon to 1:15 p.m. at Seasons on Main, a new restaurant located at the site of the former Miller’s Restaurant at 427 Main St. in Bangor.
“It’s a chance to interact with and educate our fans on what it is we’re trying to do,” Barron said. “
Barron and his audience will share a meal ($15), then will make observations about a recent game or upcoming opponent using video highlights.
Fans also are encouraged to ask questions they might have about the team.
“We’ve got a lot of loyal supporters and we want to give them an opportunity to feel like they’re part of the program,” Barron said.
For more information, contact Tracy Guerrette at 207-581-1107.