In the University of Maine women’s basketball team’s most recent game, a 45-44 loss to the University of Rhode Island at the Augusta Civic Center last Sunday, the Black Bears had two opportunities to tie the game.
Maeve Carroll made one of two free throws with 1:56 remaining, and Anne Simon made one of two with 1.9 seconds remaining. Both players are veterans.
Poor free throw shooting has haunted the 2-7 Black Bears this season. The team enters a Sunday contest against Dartmouth College shooting just 56.6 percent (43-for-76) from the free throw line, which ranks it 345th among 348 Division I teams in free throw percentage.
That is by far the worst for a UMaine team over the last 12 years. The next worst season was in 2016-17, when the team shot 65.9 percent from the foul line.
The Black Bears have shot less than 50 percent in four of the nine games, including a 1-for-9 showing in a 47-44 win over Yale University.
Surprisingly, it is the team’s three most experienced players who have struggled.
First team All-America East junior guard Simon, a 76 percent free throw shooter entering the season, is just 11-for-24 from the line (45.8 percent). Second team selection and graduate student Carroll, a 76.8 percent free throw shooter her first four years, is 9-for-16, or 56.25 percent.
And sophomore guard Alba Orois is 7-for-14 (50 percent) after going 12-for-20 a year ago.
UMaine head coach Amy Vachon said the only solution is practice.
“We just have to keep shooting them in practice like we always have. And the players are also shooting them on their own,” Vachon said.
With Carroll and Simon being the only players with extensive experience — Orois averaged just 16 minutes of playing time as a freshman last season — Vachon’s youthful Black Bears continue to be a work in progress.
“We’re still trying to figure out who we are,” she said. “We play the kids who practice well in the week leading up to the game.”
UMaine has lost four in a row but Vachon insisted that she likes where the team is.
“We’re very young and everyone is making strides. We have a really hard non-conference schedule. With the exception of two games [lopsided losses to Princeton and Drexel], I’m really pleased with how we have competed and fought,” Vachon said.
UMaine’s schedule is rated the 42nd toughest in the country.
On Sunday, the Black Bears will face Maine native and former Bowdoin College coach Adrienne Shibles and her 1-10 Dartmouth College Big Green in a 1 p.m. contest Sunday at the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor.
While UMaine has had its issues from the free throw line, Dartmouth has had its problems shooting from the floor, averaging just 46 points per game, which is 346th in the country.
UMaine continues to be led by Simon (15.9 points per game, 4.6 rebounds, 2.4 steals, 2.2 assists), Carroll (11.2 ppg, 9.4 rpg) and point guard Orois (3.1 ppg, 4.7 apg), along with freshman guard Bailey Wilborn (6.4 ppg, 18 3-pointers). Orois is averaging 37.4 minutes played per game, 12th most in the country.
Dartmouth has been paced by sophomore guard Mia Curtis (7.2 ppg, 2.5 rpg), sophomore guard-forward Carrington Washburn (6.2 ppg, 3.2 rpg) and senior guard Katie Douglas (6.1 ppg, 1.8 rpg).