BANGOR — Off the top of her head, University of Maine women’s basketball coach Amy Vachon didn’t know if the four turnovers her team committed in Monday afternoon’s 64-55 win over Vermont was a season-low.

“I know it’s a conference low,” Vachon said. “(Sunday) we went through all our turnovers. We were averaging 13 in non-conference and all of a sudden in conference we’re averaging over 20. The teams aren’t pressing us. We were just turning it over.”

Protecting the basketball was a key in the win for the Black Bears, who improved to 3-2 in America East play, 10-8 overall. The Catamounts scored just seven points off turnovers, while Maine scored 13 points off 12 Vermont turnovers.

“I feel like we came in really focused and did what we needed to do to win,” Maine point guard Dor Saar said.

Monday’s win was far and away Maine’s best effort at protecting the basketball in America East conference games. In four conference games entering Monday, the Black Bears’ turnover low was 18 in a win at Maryland-Baltimore County last Wednesday. Maine turned the ball over 21 times in a win over Stony Brook to open conference play on Jan. 3, and had 25 turnovers in an overtime loss to Binghamton a few days later. At Albany on Saturday, Maine had 19 turnovers in a 68-54 loss to the Great Danes.

Maine played without starter Julie Brosseau, who suffered an ankle injury Saturday at Albany. Down a player, Vachon and her assistant coaches emphasized taking care of each possession.

“Today, without Julie, and we’ve had some kids sick, they really focused in on what we needed to do. It was a good team win,” Vachon said. “Vermont is a team that doesn’t put a lot of pressure, defensively, so I felt like — we all felt like — this could be a really good game for us to take care of the basketball. I think what you saw was a team that didn’t force anything. They just let the game come to them.”

Vermont coach Chris Day said he didn’t expect his team to force a lot of turnovers, but he expected the Catamounts to do a better job.

“We almost had them in a couple trapping situations, (Vachon) called a timeout. That’s the only way we can try to turn them over. We at least want to get them to be in double digit turnovers, but they only had four,” Day said.

Maine had one turnover in the first quarter, but held a slim 14-12 lead by going 6 of 21 from the field. Vachon knew if the Black Bears continued to get shots, they would start to fall, and they did. After shooting just 28.6 percent in the first quarter, Maine shot 45.5 percent the rest of the game (20 for 44), and shot 40 percent for the game.

In the flow of the game, the Black Bears didn’t think of how well they protected the ball, Saar said, but in timeouts, they would get updates.

“The coaches and Coach Vachon talked about it before the game. Our goal is to take care of the basketball. We just focused on it more,” Saar said. “When we had timeouts, I think, oh, how am I doing?”

By taking care of the ball, the Black Bears took 65 shots to Vermont’s 43, and were able to stay patient and get more open looks. Maine made 10 of 27 3-pointers. With Brosseau and her 12 points per game out, Blanca Millan stepped up and scored a game-high 23. Tanesha Sutton added 15 points, and Saar 11.

“It’s just such a big difference when you have additional shots. We had 21 shots in the first quarter. We didn’t make a lot of them. That’s a lot of shots in once quarter,” Vachon said.

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]

Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM

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