ORONO — The University of Maine wore down Maine Maritime Academy with tenacious defense Tuesday night, forcing numerous turnovers to pull away for a 73-37 women’s basketball victory at Memorial Gymnasium.
Coach Richard Barron’s Black Bears (3-3) now head to Annapolis, Md., to take on George Washington and Navy in the Midshipmen’s tournament on Friday and Saturday, respectively.
Freshman Courtney Anderson of Greene led a balanced offense for UMaine with 10 points, while Shareka Maner (5 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals) and Samantha Baranowski scored nine points each and Rebecca Knight of Alfred added eight.
The Black Bears didn’t allow themselves to think they should beat the Mariners easily.
“We just knew that we had to come out and play our game, that the (opposing) team doesn’t matter,” Anderson said. ”We still have to play the same way, no matter who we’re playing.”
Alexis Bennett of Freedom tossed in a game-high 13 points on 6-for-10 shooting to pace Division III Maine Maritime Academy of Castine (2-2). Sam Goda of Eliot contributed five points and nine rebounds.
“There’s not a lot of times where a coach will go into the locker room when you lose by (36) and say it’s a confidence booster, but our kids are feeling good about what they just did,” said MMA coach Craig Dagan said. “I’m really proud of our effort and how we competed.”
UMaine built the win around aggressive man-to-man defense. The Bears harrassed MMA ballhandlers throughout, which contributed to the Mariners’ 29 turnovers.
UMaine capitalized, scoring 40 points as a direct result of the miscues.
“We had some turnovers, but they forced us into a lot of things,” Dagan said. “It’s not because we made mistakes, it’s because they’re just better. Our offense went further and further and further out because their guards put so much pressure on the wings.”
The Bears also racked up 20 second-chance points, despite an effort that saw the Mariners finish even with 34 rebounds. UMaine also outscored MMA 36-10 in the paint, capitalizing on its significant height advantage.
The hosts were finally able to stretch their lead during the last 12 1/2 minutes as the Bears scored in transition and got to the foul line often on their way to a 19-14 edge from the line.
Ashleigh Roberts posted five points, seven rebounds, three assists and two steals for UMaine. Danielle Walczak provided seven points, four rebounds, three assists and two steals and Kelsey Mattice added six points, three assists and three steals.
“It’s nice to get everybody in the game,” Barron said. “It’s a feel-good game going into a tough weekend.”
UMaine put the game out of reach with a 10-0 run. Maner opened the surge with a free throw, then Kelsey Mattice drained a 3-pointer off an Anderson feed.
Maner followed with a rebound basket after an MMA turnover, then Knight scored back-to-back transition layups off steals by Mattice and Maner, respectively, to give the Bears a 58-30 lead with 8:42 remaining.
“I think that’s what we’re working more towards now, to actually stay aggressive on defense and not take any breaks,” Maner said of the Bears’ intensity.
The Mariners scored only seven points the rest of the way.
UMaine thinks it has some confidence heading into the Navy tournament.
“It’s definitely a morale boost,” Maner said. “We have a little more confidence. There’s definitely some stuff we have to work on still.”
The Bears led 29-12 at halftime.
UMaine’s tight, man-to-man defense meant the Mariners had tremendous difficulty trying to run their offensive sets in the halfcourt.
MMA shot 23 percent (5-for-22) from the floor and also committed 17 turnovers that led to 16 points for UMaine. The Mariners held their own on the boards, outrebounding UMaine 20-17.
The Bears had their share of difficulties trying to establish offensive consistency against the Mariners’ 1-2-2 matchup zone. However, UMaine was able to use its size to get the ball inside fairly often.
The hosts didn’t shoot well, going 9-for-25 (36 percent) from the field. They helped make up for it by making eight of 12 free throws.