BANGOR, Maine — Prior to every game, Liz Wood receives a text message from her father, Larry.
“My dad is always wanting me to score 30 points ever since I’ve been playing basketball,” Liz Wood said.
“Before every game, he texts me and he’s like ‘30 points is only 10 3’s,’” she added. “It’s just become a big family joke.”
Wood’s play was no joke on Thursday night. The junior forward poured in 30 points, including 21 in the first half, to power the Black Bears to a 74-46 America East women’s basketball victory over Vermont at the Cross Insurance Center.
“It’s the first time I’ve ever done it my whole career, high school, everything,” said Wood, who hit five 3-pointers in the first half and wound up going 11-for-20 from the field.
She finished with six rebounds, three assists, three steals and a blocked shot for UMaine (13-6, 5-1 American East), which notched its fifth consecutive win. Wood became the first UMaine women’s player to score 30 points in a game since former standout Ashley Underwood of Benton accomplished the feat against Albany on Feb. 7, 2007.
“I thought especially the first half,it was just there. we weren’t running anything for her, it was just her scoring in our offense,” said UMaine head coach Richard Barron.
“The passing was great, it was a great team win,” he added. “The ball was moving, everybody was very unselfish. I think a lot of times Liz touched the ball two or three times before she took a shot.”
Chantel Charles (3 assists, 2 blocks) and Sophie Weckstrom scored nine points each for the Black Bears, who racked up 23 assists on 27 baskets. Parise Rossignol of Van Buren added eight points. Anna Heise, who was celebrating her birthday, chipped in with five points, a game-high eight rebounds, four assists and a steal.
UMaine shot 54 percent from the floor in the second half and 45 percent overall, despite launching 35 3-pointers among 60 field-goal attempts.
Niki Taylor of York paced Vermont (3-15, 0-6 American East) with eight points and eight rebounds. She wound up two points shy of 1,000 for her career but did notch her 700th career rebound.
Jordan Eisler added six points and four assists for the Catamounts, who committed 20 turnovers that led to 18 UMaine points.
The Bears ended the suspense early in the second half with a 10-3 run. Charles ignited it with a 3-pointer and Rossignol drained another off a feed from Charles.
Kayla Burchill of Portland answered for UVM with a 3, but Wood drove the lane for a hoop and Rossignol hit a fast-break layup off a steal and nifty pass from Courtney Anderson of Greene to give UMaine a 49-24 lead with 12:54 to play.
Wood had the hot hand during what was otherwise a subpar first half offensively for the Black Bears. She connected on five 3-pointers amidst 8-for-12 shooting and finished the period with 21 points to help UMaine build a 32-17 lead.
Her success against Vermont’s matchup zone belied UMaine’s 38 percent shooting as everyone other than Wood went 4-for-20 combined from the field. The hosts hit only six of 22 from long distance, 27 percent accuracy.
“I think early on in the game, especially, I was a little hesitant to take shots and then I realized that I’m going to get good shots and I just need to be confident in taking those,” Wood said. “Once I started doing that, I started knocking them down and then the confidence grew from there.”
The Bears probably should have had an even more substantial lead, but they were able to score only five points as a result of the Catamounts’ 10 turnovers. UMaine committed only one miscue.
The Bears dominated play during the last 9½ minutes of the half, outscoring Vermont 16-4 and coming up with five turnovers. Leading 18-13, UMaine heated up over the final 5:31 as Sophie Weckstrom hit a 3 to get things started.
Prior to the game, UMaine and Vermont players and coaches joined their fans with a 30-second standing ovation to celebrate the life of longtime Black Bears fan Sandra Wheeler.
Wheeler, who died unexpectedly on Monday at age 75, was the wife of former UMaine quarterback Manche Wheeler, the mother of former Black Bear men’s basketball player Jeff Wheeler and the grandmother of former UMaine women’s basketball player Samantha Wheeler.
“Manche, she’s been called up to the varsity,” Barron said, addressing Wheeler over the public address system after the tribute.