The University of Maine women’s basketball team appears to be turning the corner back toward respectability this season.
Coach Richard Barron’s Black Bears will take an 11-11 overall record and a 5-4 America East mark into Wednesday night’s game at Vermont.
One more victory will give UMaine as many as the program had mustered during Barron’s first two seasons combined.
One of the key dynamics in the Bears’ improvement has been their 3-point shooting.
UMaine is coming off a Saturday win at Maryland Baltimore County during which it tied a program record with 14 made 3-pointers and set a new standard by attempting 41 shots from behind the arc.
Twice this season, UMaine has matched the 14 3-pointers scored during a 1999 game against Vermont.
Barron said the Black Bears have made the mathematics of 3-point shooting work in their favor this season.
“It’s a numbers game,” he said recently. “Few, if any teams, shoot 50 percent from two-[point range] and that’s the same as 33 percent from 3. Anybody shooting in the 30 percent range from 3, that’s a pretty effective weapon.”
UMaine has accomplished just that, shooting 34.3 percent from the arc. That success rate, an 18 percent improvement over last winter, leads America East.
The Bears have averaged 7.8 3-pointers per contest, which ranks No. 1 in the league and is 29th among more than 300 Division I teams. Averaging almost 23 attempts, UMaine is on pace to shatter the record for 3-point attempts (560) set last season.
“It’s a shot that can spread the defense and open up other things — post entries, drives to the basket,” Barron said. “Without that effort, it’s pretty easy for teams to defend you. We need that weapon and the more you have, the better.”
Lauren Bodine has set the tone for UMaine’s 3-point shooting success. The sophomore from Louisville, Ky., has hit 51 of 112 shots from long range, a 46 percent success rate.
Bodine ranks first in America East in 3-pointers made (2.43 per game) and her .455 shooting places her 12th in the nation in Division I.
“This year, she’s much more confident in her shot,” Barron said. “Last year, we struggled to get her to shoot the ball but at the end of the season that started to change.”
Bodine has taken 5.3 3’s per game while playing only 20.3 minutes per contest.
“Her shot selection has been excellent this year. She’s certainly been one of our most consistent players,” said Barron, who also complimented her defensive efforts.
Bodine could challenge the UMaine single-season record of 70 set by Kristen McCormick during the 1998-99 campaign.
UMaine has exhibited good balance from outside as sophomores Liz Wood and Sophie Weckstrom have made 28 and 27 3-pointers, respectively. Chantel Charles (17), Ashleigh Roberts (14) and Courtney Anderson (10) also have been productive.
“We’ve got three or four people on the floor who can shoot it, so it’s not like you can [only] guard [Bodine],” Barron said.
UMaine is a guard-oriented team that does not have a dominating player in the post. Barron said the Bears have to get shots in the rhythm of the offense, rather than just standing around the perimeter.
“There have been times this year I feel like we’ve shot too many 3’s,” Barron said. “We want them to come off penetration, post entries, with the defense coming at you.”
The 3-pointers also have boosted UMaine’s 65.0 scoring average, which represents an increase of 9.8 points per game since last season.
And the Bears are shooting .434 overall, which is second in the league and 49th in the country. They also top America East with 17.1 assists per game and a 1.0 assist-to-turnover ratio.
Evening with Bears set Saturday
The UMaine women’s basketball team will host its second annual “Evening with the Black Bears” 7-9 p.m. Saturday.
Fans are invited to join the players and coaches for a special social evening. It will be held at the home of Jody and Matt Bourassa, 51 Thomas Hill Road in Bangor.
A donation of $50 covers appetizers, wine and beer. Interested parties should RSVP to Samantha Wheeler by email at email@example.com or at 581-1075.