After playing its first seven games on the road, the University of Maine women’s basketball team finally played home games last weekend.
The Black Bears swept America East newcomer the New Jersey Institute of Technology 77-60 and 74-51 at Memorial Gym in Orono to maintain its lead atop the league standings.
Senior guard Blanca Millan and head coach Amy Vachon said it was nice finally playing at home, even though fans weren’t allowed due to COVID-19 restrictions.
“It was really exciting. We’ve been on the road since early December or earlier,” Millan said. “It was a little bit different because the last time we played there it was a full house and it was super loud. But it’s great.”
UMaine (8-1, 5-1 AE) hadn’t played in “The Pit” since a 67-54 America East semifinal triumph over UMass Lowell on March 8.
“When it’s packed, there aren’t many places similar to it,” Vachon said. “It has been different without fans wherever we play.”
Vachon was pleased with the sweep of NJIT and believes her team is improving.
“We did a lot of nice things defensively and, offensively, we shared the ball really well. We had 23 assists the first game and 19 the second game and that’s nice to see,” Vachon said.
She said the Black Bears need to reduce their fouls and avoid offensive lulls.
UMaine is averaging 16.3 fouls, which is tied for 94th most among 336 Division I teams.
After going scoreless for more than five minutes against NJIT, Vachon said that’s inexcusable. She wants her team to become more consistent behind the leadership of its seniors.
“We have to do all the little things, like finding the open shooter and playing defense the way we practice it,” Millan said.
Millan, named the league’s Player of the Week for the third time this season, is averaging 23 points per game, which ranks 14th in the nation. She also is tied for 14th with 80 field goals and her 207 points are 19th. Senior point guard Dor Saar’s 52 assists are tied for 13th in the country and her 5.8 assists per game are 14th.
UMaine ranks 17th in scoring defense (54.2 ppg) and its 1.31 assists-to-turnovers ratio is 22nd.
UMaine is scheduled to host Vermont (4-2 overall and in the conference) at 1 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
The Catamounts haven’t played since Jan. 3-4 after last weekend’s series with Binghamton was postponed.
The Catamounts have been led by 6-1 freshman forward Anna Olson (13.3 points, 6.8 rebounds per game).