The University of Maine women’s basketball team returns home to take on another challenging opponent on Saturday.
After playing four road games in eight days, UMaine will face Drexel University when the team invades the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor for a noon contest. Drexel will be the third opponent that was chosen to win its conference in preseason polls.
Drexel and previous UMaine opponent Delaware are co-favorites to win the Colonial Athletic Association.
The Black Bears are 2-5 overall and UMaine head coach Amy Vachon will be looking for continued improvement from her youthful team, which has 10 freshmen and sophomores on the 14-player roster.
Several inexperienced underclassmen have been receiving a lot of playing time as Vachon continues to mold her team in preparation for the America East schedule, which begins with a Dec. 30 game at Vermont.
“We’ve made improvements executing our offense. We’re getting better every day,” Vachon said.
“We’re 2-5. We could be 4-3 or we could also be 0-7. I’m not worried about our record. We’re playing a really difficult schedule. Wins are hard to come by.”
UMaine’s last game was against Ivy League favorite Princeton, which dealt UMaine an 82-43 pasting two days after the Black Bears had lost to Army West Point 87-81 in double overtime.
By taking some hits against talented non-conference opponents, Vachon said when they begin playing America East teams “we won’t be seeing anything we haven’t seen before.”
Vachon feels her team needs to continue improving their transition defense “and it begins in the offensive end” by taking good shots and limiting turnovers.
Over the last four games, sophomores Caroline Bornemann and Olivia Rockwood have averaged 22 and 19 minutes of playing time per game after averaging 3.9 and 4.7 a year ago, respectively. Freshmen Bailey Wilborn and Sera Hodgson have averaged 24.5 and 20, respectively.
First-team All-AE guard Anne Simon and All-AE second team forward Maeve Carroll, the only returnees who averaged more than 16 minutes of playing time per game a year ago, continue to lead UMaine. Simon, coming off one of the worst games in her career with three points against Princeton, is still averaging 16.4 points and 4.4 rebounds per game.
Simon leads the conference in scoring and is second in steals (2.6 per game) and minutes played (36). She is also averaging 4.4 rebounds.
Carroll’s 8.9 rebounds per game lead the conference. She is second in assists (4) and tied for second in blocks (1.3). She is also averaging 12.3 points and is fourth in minutes played (32.9).
Spanish sophomore guard Alba Orois is atop the league in assists (4.9 per game) and minutes played (38.3) and is sixth in field goal percentage (51.7). She is also averaging 9.6 points.
Wilborn is fourth in 3-point field goals made per game and is sixth in 3-point percentage (30.6).
Drexel is 5-2 and has been led by All-CAA preseason first team senior guards Hannah Nihill (13.1 ppg, 4.4 apg, 3.7 rprg) and Keishana Washington (12.9 ppg, 4.3 apg, 2 rpg), along with graduate student forward Tessa Brugler (13.6 ppg, 9.6 rpg, 2 blocks).
Drexel and UMaine have had one common opponent. Nebraska beat UMaine 108-50 on Nov. 9 and Drexel 65-53 on Nov. 26.
UMaine’s final four non-conference games will all be in the state with three at the Cross Insurance Center and a Dec. 12 game against Rhode Island at the Augusta Civic Center.