The University of Maine women’s basketball team’s non-conference schedule will include an appearance in a prestigious tournament.
The Black Bears are among four teams that have been selected to play in the 2020 Hall of Fame Women’s Challenge to be held Nov. 28-29 at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut.
The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame made the announcement on Tuesday.
Coach Amy Vachon’s Black Bears will take on Mississippi State in the first round before playing either UConn or Quinnipiac in the second round.
Mississippi State went 27-6 before the COVID-19 pandemic ended the 2019-2020 season and returns three of its five starters. They included top two scorers Rickea Jackson (15.1 points per game) and Jessika Carter (13 ppg) and five other players who played at least nine minutes per game.
Coach Nikki McCray-Pearson’s Lady Bulldogs went 104-10 over the previous three seasons including an 87-43 victory over UMaine at the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor in 2016.
Mississippi State played in two NCAA championship games, losing both.
Geno Auriemma’s UConn Huskies, who won four consecutive NCAA titles and 111 consecutive games before being upset by Mississippi State 66-64 in overtime in the 2017 NCAA semifinals, were 29-3 last season.
In its three previous seasons, UConn compiled a 107-5 record but lost in the national semifinals all three years.
Quinnipiac was 15-14 last winter but had won three straight Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference titles and NCAA Tournament appearances.
“We are so excited to be a part of this prestigious event,” Vachon said. “Being in a tournament with UConn, Mississippi State and Quinnipiac is an honor and an opportunity our program is looking forward to this fall.”
Defending two-time America East champion UMaine was 18-14 this season and had reached the America East championship game against top seed Stony Brook when the season ended.
The Black Bears went 12-4 in league play and earned the No. 2 seed despite being ravaged by injuries to key players, including 2019 America East Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year Blanca Millan (knee surgery) and Fanny Wadling (concussion), who led the conference in rebounds per game during 2018-2019.
Millan and Wadling are back next season along with four starters including All-America East second-team point guard Dor Saar, forward Maeve Carroll and guard Anne Simon, the conference Rookie of the Year.
The Women’s Challenge is one in a series of collegiate events sponsored by the Hall of Fame to promote and celebrate the game outside the museum walls.
Tickets will be available for purchase via the Mohegan Sun box Office and Ticketmaster in September. Specially discounted two-day ticket packages will start at $25 and offer a savings of 30% or more (off the single-day rates).
Game times and television details will be released at a later date.
As the health and safety of the athletes, fans and staff is of the utmost importance, the Basketball Hall of Fame will continue to monitor the COVID-19 situation closely in the coming months and provide updates as needed.