BANGOR, Maine — With head coach Richard Barron on medical leave and senior All-America East first-team guard Sigi Koizar still sidelined by a leg injury, the University of Maine’s women’s basketball team put on an impressive exhibition Saturday.
The Black Bears received a game-high 17 points from freshman guard Blanca Millan and played smothering player-to-player defense to post a 72-40 America East victory against a University of Maryland, Baltimore County, team that was picked to finish second in the coaches’ preseason poll.
UMaine (8-9, 1-1 AE), which was selected to finish third, limited the Retrievers to 23.3 percent shooting from the floor and snapped a four-game losing streak before 1,673 fans at the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor.
The Retrievers fell to 5-10 and 0-2, respectively.
“I was really proud of the team and the way they played today,” said UMaine associate head coach Amy Vachon, who is filling in for Barron, who is suffering from an undisclosed illness. “They played together the entire game. They were focused in on our game plan. UMBC runs a lot of the same stuff that we run so we were familiar with what they were going to do. That was helpful with the prep.
“They really moved the ball well, we attacked their high post in their zone which was really effective. And 21 assists on 26 baskets is great,” Vachon said.
Millan, who went 5-for-8 from the 3-point line, sparked a third-quarter surge that helped the Black Bears put the game out of reach. But her defensive efforts also were key to the victory.
“Blanca is just a quiet, unassuming player. But she can play. We made an adjustment in the first half to have her keep McCarley on her right side [instead of her preferred left side] for the majority of the game,” Vachon said. “She gave McCarley a hard time. To be able to do that and come back and have the offensive game she did was was really nice to see.”
Freshman Julie Brosseau, filling in for Koizar at the point guard slot, contributed 12 points, seven rebounds, four assists and three steals.
“Julie is a multi-talented player. She isn’t a true point guard but she knows the game really well and can play the point guard. That’s nice,” Vachon said.
“It isn’t my position but I can do it sometimes,” said Brosseau, who made smart decisions with the ball and had just one turnover.
“We were really excited and motivated for the game,” she said.
Freshmen Naira Caceres, Laia Sole and Fanny Wadling scored eight points apiece for UMaine. Caceres grabbed eight rebounds and Sole had five rebounds and two assists. Classmate Anita Kelava contributed eight rebounds, six assists and five blocked shots to go with her two points and sophomore Tanesha Sutton had seven points, four rebounds and three assists.
“Obviously, Maine played really well today,” the Retrievers coach Phil Stern said. “Playing without their best player, I’m sure they were really motivated to play well at home and they certainly did that today.
“They did a good job getting up on us and pressuring us and making us start our offense a little higher. They played real well defensively,” Stern said.
“They were the more aggressive team,” said McCarley, who had four steals to go with her 10 points.
Lucrezia Costa came off the bench and scored a team-high 12 points for the Retrievers, while Te’yjah Oliver had eight points, seven rebounds and three assists and Lakiah Sims had a game-high 10 rebounds.
UMaine used an 11-4 run in the first quarter to snap a 4-4 tie and take a lead it would never relinquish. Millan tallied five points, and Sole had four during the run.
Caceres’ 3-pointer with two seconds left in the half gave UMaine a 26-18 lead at the break.
Millan hit three 3-pointers in the third quarter and Brosseau had eight points, including two 3’s, to break the game open as UMaine outscored the Retrievers 25-11.
Millan credited her teammates for finding her when she got open which enabled her to hit her threes.
“When you know you have the whole team with you, it’s much easier,” Millan said. “I said, ‘OK, this is my shot and I’m going to make them.”
She added that the team stressed that they had to win and “the most important thing was that we had to be together.”
The Retrievers were without second-team All-AE senior forward Pandora Wilson, who has been sidelined with a foot injury.