Maine's Caroline Bornemann, right, is defended by Albany's Ellen Hahne during the first half half of an NCAA college basketball game in the championship of the the America East Conference tournament on March 11, 2022, at Orono. Credit: Robert F. Bukaty / AP

What have we learned about the University of Maine’s women’s basketball team from its 12-game non-conference schedule in which the Black Bears went 4-8?

The most consistent aspect of the Black Bears’ game has been their inconsistency as they continue to rely on inexperienced players or newcomers.

They haven’t been able to replace speedy All-America East point guard and league assists leader Alba Orois, who bolted in June after her sophomore year for a pro career back in her native Spain. The timing of her departure left UMaine head coach Amy Vachon very little time to replace her with another established point guard.

Sophomore Paula Gallego and freshman Jaycie Christopher have been sharing the duties and are getting better. Gallego, an All-America Rookie Team selection a year ago, had never been a point guard, and although Christopher was an all-everything at Skowhegan High including a point guard, she is more of a shooting guard at the college level.

They still can become efficient, consistent point guards at UMaine. But it’s going to take more time in head coach Amy Vachon’s complicated offense.

The most consistent player has been sophomore forward Adi Smith, who has followed in the footsteps of All-America East selections Tanesha Sutton and Maeve Carroll as overachieving, undersized post players who attack the rim and gobble up rebounds.

The 6-foot Smith, who averaged just 7.1 minutes of playing time per game a year ago, is the team’s leading scorer (10.7 points per game) and rebounder (7.8 rpg). She has scored in double figures in four of her last five games. She has become a force under the basket and is shooting 47.2 percent from the floor. She also leads the team in assists with 3.7 per game.

Vachon needs to get more consistent performances from juniors Caroline Bornemann and Olivia Rockwood, who both improved over the course of last season and have shown occasional glimpses of stardom this season.

The 5-10 Bornemann can score from anywhere, but after scoring in double figures in four of her first six games, she has managed it only once in the last six games, although that was a career-high 29-point performance in an 88-60 win over Army. She is the team’s second-leading scorer (10.5 ppg) and rebounder (6.4), but has to reduce turnovers as she leads the team at 37.

Rockwood is a 3-point specialist who hit 10 of her first 23 threes but has gone 15-for-47 since. Her quickness enables her to get to the rim at times.

Sophomore guard Sera Hodgson has received a lot of playing time due to an ankle injury to reigning America East Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year Anne Simon, who just returned in the 84-56 loss at Harvard on Dec. 18 after sitting out the previous eight games.

The 6-0 Hodgson, who averaged 1.2 points in 11.3 minutes of playing time per game a year ago, averaged 8.2 points through her first six games and had a career-high 22 points in a 73-57 win over Niagara.

But she has averaged just 3 ppg over her last six and hasn’t scored in her last three games. She is a good defender thanks to her long arms and could be a real help if she can snap out of her scoring slump, though she must also limit turnovers with 25 so far.

Gallego has the team’s best shooting percentage among the regulars at 54.8 percent and is averaging 4.6 points per game. She does a lot of things well in a quiet way. She is a dependable defender and is averaging nearly 3 rebounds (2.8) per game.

Christopher and Windham’s Sarah Talon have been pleasant surprises. Both have had ups and down but possess huge upsides and could be valuable contributors the rest of the way.

Miss Maine Basketball and Gatorade Player of the Year Christopher has found her scoring touch of late, averaging 10.8 points per game over her last four games to raise her season’s average to 5.8. She had a career-high 26 points against Army West Point and she leads the team in shooting percentage beyond the 3-point arc (46.3 percent).

Talon, like Christopher, is fearless and can help the team in a lot of different ways. She has averaged 4.5 ppg in 17.9 minutes per game and has had at least three rebounds in four games and at least three assists in three.

Six-foot-two senior Abbe Laurence, whose career has been marred by knee injuries, has been a productive post player off the bench. In her 13.1 minutes of playing time per contest, she has averaged 3 ppg and 2.5 rpg. She also leads the team in blocked shots with 11.

The return of Simon is huge: She led the conference in scoring last year and is a calming influence who will be the focus on opponents’ defensive schemes, creating open shots for her teammates.

But the Black Bears have to protect the ball better. They have averaged 17.5 turnovers per game and many have been unforced errors that can be corrected. They also have to do a better job boxing out in the paint to get rebounds.

UMaine will benefit greatly from its tough schedule, rated 48th toughest among 361 Division I teams. Their non-conference opponents exposed the Black Bears’ weaknesses and they have to address them as their 16-game America East schedule starts against newcomer Bryant at the Chace Center in Smithfield, R.I. on Thursday at 1 p.m.

The fact UMaine plays in a weak conference, rated 26th among 32 conferences a year ago, will also help. Albany is still the heavy favorite and Vermont is very good. But UMaine has a larger learning curve because it has much less experience than Albany and Vermont.

The Black Bears have still won four of the last five America East regular season titles. If this young team continues to improve, they could still be a tough out in the playoffs.