ORONO, Maine — The University at Albany started slowly, but shoveled itself out from under some early-game woes Saturday afternoon and stormed to an 86-54 America East women’s basketball victory over the University of Maine.
Julie Forster scored 25 points and grabbed 11 rebounds to propel the Great Danes (20-3, 11-0 AE) to their 11th straight victory.
Contending with the talented and versatile Albany team was a stiff challenge for coach Richard Barron’s Black Bears (2-21, 1-9 AE).
Senior Corinne Wellington (knee) and sophomore Danielle Walczak (foot) have been lost for the season because of injury, and illness kept freshman Sophie Weckstrom on the sideline, leaving UMaine with only eight players in uniform.
“We’ve had about seven players in practice the last week, so there’s no way to configure that,” Barron said.
UMaine demonstrated grit in the first half and held the lead with 7:24 to play. However, the Bears’ turnovers, coupled with their lack of post players and overall depth, kept them from sustaining the effort.
The Great Danes scored 29 points as a result of UMaine’s 24 turnovers.
“Turnovers killed us and I take a big part in that,” said UMaine sophomore Courtney Anderson of Greene (5 points, 6 assists, 2 steals). I had six today and that’s too many. It’s inexcusable.”
The Great Danes got out of their early funk by outscoring the Black Bears 22-4 over the last 6:25 of the first half to build a 40-24 halftime advantage.
Prior to that, UMaine had hung around with a fluid 2-3 zone defense that clogged up the middle. Albany settled for a lot of outside shots, which weren’t falling early.
The Bears also negotiated the Great Danes’ full-court pressure by making long passes and attacking off the dribble. However, UMaine came up short on some close-range scoring chances and wasn’t connecting consistently from 3-point range.
“They got out of their press because we were getting looks, but the problem was we weren’t finishing,” Barron said.
UMaine grabbed its second and final lead when Liz Wood (8 points, 8 rebounds, 6 steals, 8 turnovers) hit a foul-line jumper to make it 20-18. That came after a string of three turnovers that hampered UMaine’s ability to build more momentum.
“As long as we weren’t beating ourselves, we were in the game,” Barron said. “Then a string of turnovers and missed opportunities really kind of fueled that run in the last four or five minutes of the half.”
Albany controlled the remainder of the period with its success attacking in transition. Forster sandwiched a 17-footer and a lay-in around a 3-pointer by Lindsey Lowrie (14 points) and Shereesha Richards’ inside hoop to take a 27-20 lead with 4:32 to play.
Wood scored from the paint on a give-and-go with Brittany Wells, but Forster’s rebound basket and a low-post bucket by 6-foot-8 Megan Craig (8 points, 5 rebounds) kicked off a half-ending 13-0 surge that stretched the Albany lead to 16 points (40-24).
“I thought they did a decent job on the board, our players,” Barron said, “[we] even held them to six second-chance points with an undermanned, undersized team. That was a pretty good effort.”
Ebone Henry posted 13 points, four assists and four steals for Albany, which shot 47 percent from the field.
UMaine was paced by a 20-point, five-rebound performance from junior guard Ashleigh Roberts. Wells netted nine points.
Albany finally stretched its advantage as Lowrie drained two 3-pointers to propel a 10-0 flurry that made it 71-42 with 8:18 to play.
The Great Danes went into the game outscoring America East opponents by an average of more than 29 points per game. Albany outrebounded the Black Bears 46-36, scoring 40 points in the paint.
The Bears return to action Wednesday at Hartford (7:30 p.m.).