MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. — The University of Maine women’s basketball team earned its first victory of the season on Saturday, then put forth a solid effort before falling to host Minnesota in Sunday’s championship game of the Subway Classic.
Coach Richard Barron’s Black Bears defeated the University of Nevada Las Vegas 74-67 on Saturday, before falling to the Golden Gophers 77-60 in the title contest.
“They’re good, a talented team,” Barron said of Minnesota. “I felt like we improved. We played better [Sunday] than we did the day before. We didn’t play very well against UNLV.”
Junior guard Ashleigh Roberts, who was UMaine’s leading scorer both days, was named to the all-tournament team along with sophomore teammate Danielle Walczak.
On Sunday, Rachel Banham and Kayla Hirt each scored four points during a 12-0 second-half surge that helped Minnesota pull away from UMaine.
Roberts scored on a conventional three-point play to cut the hosts’ lead to 57-53 with 10:03 to play, but the Golden Gophers scored eight unanswered points during a span of 3 minutes, 34 seconds to regain command.
Roberts finished with a game-high 23 points on 10-for-16 floor shooting, pulled down eight rebounds and added three assists and three steals to lead the Bears (1-4).
“Ashleigh’s aggresive. She’s looking to score but she’s not forcing things, for the most part, and that’s good,” Barron said. “What she does well is puts pressure on her defender to play her straight up.”
Anna Heise finished with 10 points and four rebounds, while Sophie Weckstrom added eight points and Walczak, who missed the first three games because of illness, chipped in with seven points and four rebounds.
“Danielle made a big difference,” Barron said. “I thought [Sunday] she battled and I thought Anna, in the post, was very good.”
He also praised the efforts of Corinne Wellington as part of a solid effort by the Bears’ post trio.
“They’re a big team and we did a good job on the boards against them,” Barron said. “Our posts were physical on defense, rotated well and contested shots.”
Minnesota (4-0) shot 46 percent from the field and outrebounded UMaine 40-33. Banham paced the Gophers with 16 points and seven assists, Micaella Riche provided 16 points and eight rebounds and Mikayla Bailey netted 10 points.
The victory was the 200th at Minnesota for coach Pam Borton, who was the former head coach at Vermont and Boston College.
Minnesota jumped on UMaine in the early going, bolting to a 12-0 advantage during the first 3:07 of the contest.
Riche scored eight points to fuel the surge as the Gophers took advantage of their ability to pound the ball inside.
“They got some really nice post feeds and easy scores,” Barron said. “We had a little bit of an unsettled beginning, but we came back and got it within striking range.”
On Saturday, UMaine shot 52 percent (11-for-21) from 3-point range, led by Liz Wood’s 4-for-5 performance, to claim its first win of the season.
Roberts sparked the Bears’ offense with 16 points and also contributed nine rebounds, three assists and four steals. UMaine, which shot 42 percent from the field, also got 14 points and seven rebounds from Walczak, 12 points from Wood and nine points, five rebounds and four assists from Milica Mitrovic.
The Bears prevailed despite being outrebounded by UNLV by a 57-37 margin.
The Runnin’ Rebels (1-3) were led by Kelli Thompson, who tossed in 24 points and pulled down 10 rebounds. Alana Cesarz psoted 18 points, 10 rebounds and four steals, while Rmanii Haynes added eight points, six rebounds, five assists and four steals.
UMaine used a 7-2 run to open up an eight-point lead in the first seven minutes of the second half.
Mitrovic got it started with a 3-pointer, one of three on the day for the freshman, while Roberts sandwiched two free throws and a jumper around a hoop by UNLV’s Danielle Miller to make it 38-30 with 13:25 to play.
The Bears maintained the lead the rest of the way, extending their advantage to as many as 13 points.
UMaine returns to Orono to prepre for Saturday’s 1 p.m. home contest against Virginia Commonwealth at Alfond Arena.