BANGOR, Maine — There is something different about this season’s University of Maine women’s basketball team.
The Black Bears are confident, they exhibit good chemistry and unselfishness, and they are learning how to win.
Ashleigh Roberts scored five points in the last 1:40 Saturday night, helping UMaine earn a hard-fought 75-65 victory over Bryant University in front of 1,549 fans at the Cross Insurance Center.
Coach Richard Barron’s team is the first Black Bear squad to win its first two games since 2005-2006.
“It’s exciting,” said Barron, who quickly put things into perspective.
“It isn’t like we’ve accomplished a lot. There are a lot of 2-0 teams out there right now. But for us, for our program, where we’ve come from, this is huge,” he added.
Roberts (16 points, 3 steals) was a steadying presence down the stretch to complement the fluid play of UMaine freshman guard Sigi Koizar and sophomore guard Sophie Weckstrom.
Koizar, the former Stearns High School star, tallied a career-best 16 points on 6-for-8 shooting and contributed six rebounds, four assists and two steals with no turnovers.
“Sigi played with great composure, especially for a freshman handling the ball so much,” Barron said.
Weckstrom also hit a career high with 14 points, including three 3-pointers, and Anna Heise logged 11 points and three assists.
Mikaela Gustafsson had seven points and three assists, Chantel Charles tallied six points and four rebounds, and Liz Wood handed out a game-high six assists with two blocked shots and a steal.
UMaine shot 54 percent (27-for-50), went 7-for-14 from 3-point range and committed only seven turnovers.
“I’m especially proud that we only had seven turnovers,” Barron said. “I can’t think of a time, at least in my time at Maine, that we were anywhere close to that.”
Courtney Schissler tossed in a game-high 23 points and grabbed nine rebounds to pace 1-2 Bryant. Meredith Soper posted 15 points, nine rebounds and five assists. Naana Ankoma-Mensa recorded a double-double with 10 points and 12 rebounds.
The Bulldogs had 19 turnovers, which the Bears converted into a whopping 34 points. Koizar and Weckstrom helped limit point guard Jenniqua Bailey to eight points.
UMaine, which clawed back from an early 10-point deficit to lead 37-34 at halftime, made a key 11-0 run in the second half.
Leading 45-43, Gustafsson stuck a 3-pointer and Koizar scored off a give-and-go with Wood. After back-to-back Bryant turnovers, Weckstrom made a free throw, Charles hit a 3-pointer off a penetrate-and-kick pass from Koizar and Koizar made a steal and layup for a three-point play that gave UMaine a 56-43 edge with 12:52 left.
“In the games, now we’re used to playing together and that’s where those passes come from in the last two seconds, or three [of a shot clock],” Koizar said. “We had some nice plays. That’s definitely a part of the team chemistry.”
Bryant rallied behind Schissler, whose 3-pointer capped an 8-0 burst that cut the Bears’ lead to 65-62 with 3:08 to play.
“Schissler played a fantastic game,” Barron said. “Sometimes she he hit shots with people draped on her.”
The teams traded baskets before Roberts made a foul shot, then came up with a clutch steal and layup that made it 70-64 with 1:19 left and kept UMaine on top.
“I told them, we’re still playing, we’ve still got to win this game,” Roberts said of Bryant’s final challenge. “I’m nervous in those situations. I’m like, man, we can’t give this up. We’ve still got to win. Let’s attack them.”
UMaine returns to action Friday with a road game at Long Island University-Brooklyn.