UMaine’s women’s basketball team could finish in top half of America East

After two tough building seasons for the University of Maine women’s basketball team, head coach Richard Barron and his staff have vastly improved their team.

They are currently 5-3 with wins over North Dakota State, Bryant, Long Island University-Brooklyn, UMass and Brown. They have lost to top-25 team Syracuse at the Carrier Dome, Wisconsin-Green Bay at the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor and to Fairfield in the final of the Brown Classic in Providence.

Against Wisconsin-Green Bay, Maine was down 26-19 at the half and W-GB scored 40 points in the first 10 minutes of the second half to go on to a 62-46 victory.

Maine played excellent man defense in the first half but shot poorly. The players looked tired. It was the first time this season that they had played back-to-back  games. W-GB, with a 6-1 record, and with seven redshirt players, was stronger physically and with more stamina. Those were big factors in the second half.

In the loss to a veteran  Fairfield squad in another back-to-back situation, Maine had a 27-22 lead 13 minutes into the first half. But just like the Wisconsin-Green Bay game, the Black Bears’ youth and lack of physical strength proved to be their downfall as Fairfield outscored them 58-32 the remainder of the game.

Barron gave many players many minutes last year and so far, in the non-conference games, this has paid off in finding out who will get much of the playing time for the rest of the season .

The Bears are currently shooting 42 percent from the floor, 68 percent from the line, and 35 percent from beyond the 3-point line. They are averaging 62.6 points per game and giving up 66.5 ppg. They are averaging 17.8 turnovers and 15.6 assists per game.

They make a  honest effort to get the ball inside and have shot very well from the 3-point line. They also do a good job of getting open 3-pointers on dribble penetration and kick outs.

They have good size, adequate quickness, they catch and look, and keep the ball off the floor unless penetrating.

They are still a young team with three seniors, one junior, seven sophomores and two freshmen.

They will still improve as the season progresses. Barron needs to settle on a first seven or eight players and develop an offensive setup to get the ball inside to force double teams on the post, as they can get their excellent 3-point shooters wide-open looks. They need to get stronger and in better physical condition so that the seven-eight players can go the 40 minutes.

UMass’ four-point win over Hartford and Maine’s 30-point win over UMass, speaks well of the potential for the Black Bears. They should be in the top half of the America East standings come playoff time in March.

They are averaging more than 1,000 fans for the four home games and as they continue to impress, the size of the crowds should grow

Barron has a solid eight players in his rotation with 5-foot- 6 junior point guard Courtney Anderson, lone senior Ashley Roberts (5-9 guard), 6-3 sophomore Anna Heise at the post, 6-2 sophomore Mikaela Gustafsson at forward, 5-10 sophomore forward Liz Wood, 5-8 sophomore guard Lauren Bodine, 5-8 freshman point guard Sigi Koizar , and 5-8 sophomore guard Sophie Weckstrom.

I enjoyed watching the Maine games during its Thanksgiving weekend tourney and was impressed with the team’s coaching, execution, hustle, spirit and togetherness. I think this could be a big turnaround season for them in the America East conference.

Maine’s next game is 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Cross Center as the Bears open their America East schedule against Hartford.