BANGOR, Maine — There are going to be some growing pains this season for the Husson University women’s basketball team.
Coach Kissy Walker’s Eagles, who have only three upperclassmen on an 11-player roster, showed their inexperience in their season opener Tuesday night.
Bates College of Lewiston took advantage with its always active defense and aggressive offense to earn an 88-43 victory over Husson at Newman Gymnasium.
The Eagles graduated four prominent seniors, including All-North Atlantic Conference picks Bri Hanscom and Amanda Gifford, and two other potential returnees did not come back.
“It was our first game out and we know that we’re young and inexperienced, so it’s hard to know what to expect until you play,” said Eagles coach Kissy Walker, who said the squad is the youngest in her 22 seasons at Husson.
Coach Jim Murphy’s Bobcats (1-3) collectively moved their feet well and got their hands in the passing lanes while generating numerous steals against a Husson ballclub that was feeling its way through the game.
Bates got into a good groove despite being without five players because of injury. The group included leading scorer Molly Brown (Achilles’ tendon), top returning scorer Meredith Kelly (broken toe) and starting point guard Kristin Calvo (stress fracture).
“We shot the ball very well tonight, something we haven’t done in our first three games,” Murphy said. “When you have three games under your belt and the team that you’re playing hasn’t played any, it’s a big advantage.”
Allie Beaulieu connected for four of Bates’ seven 3-pointers in the first half as the Bobcats of the New England Small College Athletic Conference built a commanding 46-16 halftime lead.
Husson struggled to run its offensive sets and committed 18 of their 29 turnovers in the first 20 minutes. Bates converted them into 23 points.
Beaulieu paced Bates with a game-high 19 points, including 5-for-7 shooting from 3-point range, and contributed eight rebounds, five assists, four steals and a blocked shot.
“We’ve got to work on running back and picking people up outside the paint and defending better,” Walker said.
The Bobcats shot 53 percent (31 for 58) from the field and went 17-for-20 from the foul line while outrebounding Husson 31-22. Bates racked up 20 assists.
Taryn O’Connell tossed in 18 points with five rebounds and three steals, while Allaina Murphy netted 13 points and Bangor native Hillary Throckmorton posted 11 points and four rebounds.
Throckmorton, a sophomore forward, provided some quality minutes coming off the bench.
“There was a lot of [fan] support and it’s a familiar gym so it’s really fun to get back in here,” said Throckmorton, who is working her way back from a bout of mononucleosis.
She also squared off against former Bangor teammate Stephanie Comstock and some other acquaintances.
“I talked to her before the game. I love seeing her,” Throckmorton said. “A lot of [the Husson players] I played AAU with, so it was cool to see them all, too.”
Senior Kellie Murray of Shawmut led the way for Husson with nine points, five rebounds and five assists. Comstock provided eight points and two blocks and Victoria McIntyre, a freshman from Mars Hill, added eight points and four rebounds.
The Bobcats had 17 turnovers, but worked around them.
Bates ended the suspense early, rattling off a 14-0 spurt to take a 25-4 lead with 9:18 to play in the first half.
Beaulieu kicked off the run with a 3-pointer off a turnover, then Murphy hit a 16-footer after another Husson miscue. O’Connell sank a free throw, before Julia Rafferty and Throckmorton buried 3-pointers 32 seconds apart and Murphy added two foul shots to complete the surge.
Throckmorton enjoys playing in Murphy’s system, which is built on tight man-to-man defense and quick-striking offense.
“You’ve got to take the open shots,” Throckmorton said. “We constantly stress crashing the offensive boards.”