ORONO, Maine — This season represents a fresh start for the University of Maine women’s basketball team.
The Black Bears got off on the right foot with Saturday night’s exhibition game at Memorial Gym.
UMaine placed five players in double figures and dominated all facets of the game while registering a resounding 88-38 victory over the University of New Brunswick.
Coach Richard Barron’s team demonstrated intensity, balance and depth while playing its first game since the 2012-2013 finale, which came in the wake of the team bus crash in Massachusetts.
The win gave the returning players a boost of confidence after a difficult 4-24 season.
“The dedication we’ve shown is amazing and it’s showing on the court,” said sophomore Liz Wood. “We’re playing really hard, doing a lot of things well.”
UMaine scored the first nine points of the contest on its way to a commanding 24-4 advantage nine minutes into the game.
Wood, the 2013 America East Co-Rookie of the Year, led the Bears with 15 points, eight rebounds and two steals. Senior Ashleigh Roberts (5 rebounds, 3 steals), junior Courtney Anderson of Greene (4 assists, 4 steals) and freshman Sigi Koizar (3 assists, 2 steals) tossed in 13 points apiece.
Sophomore Sophie Weckstrom added 10 points for UMaine, which shot 47 percent from the field (28-for-60) and outrebounded New Brunswick 45-32.
“I thought our patience was good,” Barron said. “We took good shots when they were open. Some of them were quick and in transition, then there were times when we didn’t force the issue, we kept moving the ball and we scored late in the shot clock.”
Awo Farah paced the Varsity Reds with nine points, five rebounds and three assists. Katelyn Mangold added six points and four rebounds.
UMaine committed only nine turnovers and helped force many of UNB’s 21 turnovers, which led to 22 points.
Saturday’s game also featured the return to game action of seniors Ali Nalivaika and Rachele Burns of Gorham.
Nalivaika missed the last two seasons after suffering three knee ligament tears that required surgery. She provided five points, four rebounds and two blocked shots.
In five seasons, Burns has played in 13 games. She has endured four knee surgeries, including three on her right knee, and did not compete last season.
“I’ve never seen either of them play, so this is a new experience for me,” Wood said with a smile. “They both did great.”
The Bears outscored the visitors 40-8 in the paint and posted 21 second-chance points with a rebounding effort that included 24 offensive boards.
UMaine showed off good depth as Barron often substituted four or five players at a time.
“If people keep working as hard as they are right now, I’m sure coach will dig deep into the bench,” Anderson said. “I think that’s one thing that will really benefit us, if people keep working.”
The Black Bears return to action Nov. 11 with a 7 p.m. exhibition game against the University of Southern Maine at the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor.