BANGOR, Maine — The University of Wisconsin-Green Bay may have lost four starters off last year’s 29-win NCAA tournament team, but the Phoenix have a proven system.
Green Bay ran them successfully on Saturday afternoon, combining tight defense with crisp offensive execution to earn a 66-49 women’s basketball victory over the University of Maine in the championship game of the Black Bear Thanksgiving Tournament at the Cross Insurance Center.
“We feel like we saw a team that we can learn a lot from,” UMaine coach Richard Barron said of Green Bay. “They dictated the play today. They made us play their system.”
The Phoenix (6-1) did not allow the Black Bears (4-2) to establish any kind of offensive rhythm. Conversely, the visitors found ways to get the ball inside effectively.
Senior center Breannah Ranger controlled the lane en route to 18 points, eight rebounds, three steals, two blocked shots and two assists. Green Bay outscored UMaine 42-16 in the paint.
“[In] our defense we front the post and they caught the ball a lot in the post tonight,” said sophomore Liz Wood, who paced the Black Bears with 18 points, 10 rebounds and four assists. “And it’s hard to guard them when they’re two feet from the basket.
“I think the most disappointing part is that we got away from our stuff, not that we lost,” she added.
Ranger was named the tournament’s most valuable player. The all-tourney squad also included Wood and Ashleigh Roberts of UMaine, Tesha Buck of Green Bay, Jazmen Boone of William & Mary and Rashida Timbilla of Massachusetts.
In the title game, Mehryn Kraker tallied 17 points, Megan Lukan provided 14 points and eight rebounds and Buck added 13 points and six boards for Green Bay.
Roberts wound up with 13 points and six rebounds, while Chantel Charles added seven points for UMaine.
The Bears wound up shooting only 35 percent and took 25 of their 52 shots from the 3-point arc.
“Here we learned that we have to impose our strategy, our philosophy, on the other team ina way that we did not do today,” Barron said.
The Phoenix led 26-19 at halftime, but made sure the Bears would not get back into the contest. The visitors rattled off an 18-5 run to start the second half.
Lukan drove in for a basket off a Roberts turnover and Kraker buried one of only two Green Bay 3-pointers. Wood countered for UMaine, scoring off a cut through the lane off a feed from Roberts to make it 31-21.
However, Lukan scored from the paint off a Kraker assist, then made two foul shots, before the Phoenix cashed in on back-to-back turnovers with close-range baskets by Ranger and Kraker to make it 39-21 with 15:39 to play.
“In the second half we were able to get some baskets down around the hoop and that was really a key for us on the offensive end,” said Green Bay coach Kevin Borseth.
“Breannah is experienced. She’s a senior, so she’s seen some of that action before and has got the ability to score it down there,” he added.
The Phoenix shot 64 percent (16-for-25) from the floor in the second half.
UMaine was in no position to make any kind of a serious rally. The Bears couldn’t establish consistent dribble-penetration, while the Phoenix also took away their ability to pass the ball into the post and closed off the baseline.
“They were all in there [the paint],” Roberts said of the Green Bay defense. “The way our offense is, we should be able to make different reads and counterract that with something else, but I don’t think we did a good job of that.”
UMaine returns to action Dec. 7 at Brown.
In the consolation game, William & Mary of the Colonial Athletic Association picked up its first win of the season with a 96-88 overtime victory over Massachusetts.
The Tribe (1-5) scored 39 points as a result of 31 turnovers by the Minutemen (2-6), who play in the Atlantic 10. Jazmen Boone paced W&M with 24 points, seven rebounds and four of her team’s 17 steals.
Kyla Kerstetter contributed 18 points and six rebounds, Marlena Tremba posted 15 points, six assists and four steals, and Maine native Kaitlyn Mathieu logged a double-double with 14 points and 10 rebounds.
Rashida Timbilla led UMass with a game-high 25 points and 13 rebounds, along with six assists. Jasmine Harris scored 17 points, Kiara Bomben (4 assists) netted 14 and Emily Mital added 11 points, seven rebounds and five assists.