BANGOR, Maine — University of Maine women’s basketball coach Richard Barron feels his team is making progress, even in the wake of a 97-42 loss at Syracuse.
He is looking for that improvement to continue this weekend when his Black Bears host the Black Bear Thanksgiving Tournament at the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor.
Maine (3-1) opens the tournament against Massachusetts (2-4) 5 p.m. Friday, before William & Mary (0-4) takes on Wisconsin-Green Bay (4-1), an NCAA tournament team a year ago, at 7 p.m.
On Saturday, the games will take place at noon and 2 p.m., with Maine playing in the 2 p.m. game regardless of whether it’s the championship game or consolation contest.
Barron explained that they wanted to have to set times to make it easier for their fans.
“It will also give two of the teams [playing in Saturday’s noon game] a chance to get home earlier,” he explained.
“It’s a strong field,” said Barron. “UMass has a very good point guard in [Nola] Henry and two pretty athletic forwards from Ontario [Kim Pierre-Louis and Rashida Timbilla]. And they play a lot of people. They go 10-11 deep. They certainly have the personnel to give us trouble.”
He also noted that they have impressive wins over Rutgers and a Hartford team that was picked to finish second in the America East preseason coaches poll.
The Phoenix have made the NCAA tournament 13 times in the past 16 years and are 210-27 over the last seven-plus seasons.
“They have a very strong program. They do well year in and year out. They lost to Baylor in the Sweet 16 [86-76 in 2010-11],” said Barron. “William & Mary has a new head coach, [Ed Swanson], who was successful year in and year out at Sacred Heart, and they made some NCAA tournaments. And they’ve been competitive in their games.”
Swanson went 406-264 at Sacred Heart and led them to three NCAA tournament appearances.
Barron said his team showed “a big improvement” in the second half of its game against a very good Syracuse team. After being outscored 51-13 in the first half, they were outscored 46-29 in the second half.
“Our kids made some adjustments on their own in the second half and were much more competitive against a team that was far superior athletically,” said Barron. “Our practices have been great this week. They have worked hard and communicated well, and we’ve been getting a lot of leadership which is good to see.
“They seem to have a much better understanding of how we want to play at both ends of the floor,” Barron added.
Maine is led by senior guard Ashleigh Roberts (16.8 points per game, 4.3 rebounds per game) and sophomore forward Liz Wood (8 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 3.3 assists per game). Wood leads the team in rebounds and assists.
Maine has six other players averaging between 5.5 and 6.5 points per game in Sophie Weckstrom (6.5 ppg), Lauren Bodine (6.0 ppg), Chantel Charles (5.8 ppg), Sigi Koizar (5.5 ppg) and Anna Heise (5.5 ppg).
UMass is led by Pierre-Louis (12 ppg, 4.7 rpg), Emily Mital (8.7 ppg) and Timbilla (7.7 ppg, 7.2 rpg, 2.8 apg), along with Henry (6.8 ppg, 2.3 apg) and Kiara Bomben (6.5 ppg, 4.8 rpg).
Kaili Lukan (11.8 ppg), two-time Horizon League Rookie of the Week Tesha Buck (9.6 ppg, 4.4 apg) and Breannah Ranger (9.2 ppg, 7.2 rpg) have paced the Phoenix, along with Megan Lukan (9 ppg, 3.8 apg). Waterboro’s Kaitlyn Mathieu, who spent three years at Worcester Academy (Mass.) headlines William & Mary’s roster with her 16 ppg and 8.5 rpg. Marlena Tremba (14.5 ppg, 3.8 rpg) and Kyla Kerstetter (11.8 ppg, 4.5 rpg) have been other Tribe standouts.