Turnovers have been a key concern for the UMaine women’s basketball team in recent years. The trend is continuing this season.
The Black Bears are averaging 22.6 turnovers per contest thus far, which means fewer scoring chances for them and more for opponents. Given that UMaine has lost two of its games by a total of seven points, including one in overtime, even a modest reduction could make a big difference.
“It’s really about dropping bad habits,” said first-year coach Richard Barron, who explained most of the turnovers are unforced errors.
He explained most of the issues are not poor physical execution.
“It’s very difficult from a coaching standpoint to try to figure out how you motivate somebody, teach somebody, through that,” Barron said. “It’s not necessarily an X’s and O’s sort of problem. It’s between the ears, it’s cerebral. It’s a decision-making sort of problem.”
That theory appears to be supported by UMaine’s performance in the Dead River Co. Classic. Among the Bears’ 50 turnovers in the two games, approximately 15 came on passes that either were thrown into traffic or never reached their intended target.
Freshman guard Courtney Anderson of Greene has been among the most turnover-prone players thus far. The gritty walk-on guard is averaging 4.2 turnovers in 22.4 minutes per game.
“I can take mine for decision-making, just pure stupidity on my part, some of them,” Anderson said after Saturday’s overtime loss to Brown in the championship game of the Dead River Co. Classic.
“[I was] just not executing passes that should have been made,” she said.
The other area where UMaine committed the most turnovers was on “traveling” calls. The Bears were whistled for at least 15 travels, including seven by post players.
“We’ve got to continue to work on our fundamentals with our pivot feet a lot, too,” Barron conceded. “That stuff seems to get called a lot.”
So, bad passes and travels accounted for 60 percent of UMaine’s tournament turnovers. The rest came on player-control and illegal screen calls, three-second violations, balls that were mishandled and shot-clock violations.
Sophomore guard Ashleigh Roberts, who had several turnovers against Troy and Brown, said the Bears often need to slow things down.
“It might not look that fast, but a lot of times we’re going too fast for ourselves,” Roberts said. “[It would help] if we were a little more patient.”
Experience also is a key element. Senior guard Brittany Williams has committed only 11 turnovers, 2.2 per game, in a team-high 167 minutes on the court.
The turnovers also have put a wrench in the works as UMaine tries to run its offense and establish better chemistry and continuity. UMaine is averaging just 10.6 assists per game.
“We haven’t gotten to where we’re executing well yet,” Barron said. “Right now, we’re trying to figure out what our identity is, where and how we can score.”
In spite of their stagnant offense, the Bears are shooting a healthy 40 percent from the field, including 35 percent from 3-point range.
UMaine is converting just 61.5 percent of its free throws, going 56-for-91 from the line.
The Bears entertain Division III Maine Maritime Academy of Castine at 6 p.m. Tuesday in Memorial Gym. They then depart Thursday for Annapolis, Md., where they will face George Washington and host Navy — led by former Bowdoin College coach Stefanie Pemper — in the Midshipmen’s tournament on Friday and Saturday, respectively.