BANGOR — Maine and Stony Brook have been the top two women’s basketball teams in the America East conference over the last few seasons. Judging from Sunday afternoon’s game at Cross Insurance Center, Stony Brook is still at the top of the league.

The Black Bears have some work to do.

Stony Brook never trailed on its way to a 63-44 win. The game was a step-by-step slideshow highlighting all the things that have caused the Black Bears problems throughout the season.

Maine (5-9, 2-2 in America East) and Stony Brook (11-2, 2-1) split a pair of regular-season games last season before the Seawolves took a 64-60 win in the conference championship game. They split a pair of games in the 2019-20 season, and were all set to match up in the America East final before the coronavirus pandemic hit and the game was canceled. Right now, Stony Brook looks like a team still built to win the conference title. Maine looks like a team trying to find the right pieces.

“They have everyone they had last year, minus one, and we’re not,” Maine Coach Amy Vachon said. “We’re not the same. I go back, and the coaches voted us second in the (preseason conference) poll, and that was based on the past and not what we are. They beat us bad in that first quarter.”

Stony Brook scored the first 14 points, prompting Vachon to call two timeouts in the first four minutes. The Black Bears didn’t make a field goal until Anne Simon’s finger roll layup with 4:22 left in the first quarter.

“We know (the Seawolves) like to get out in transition. We turn the ball over the first possession … We weren’t being aggressive offensively. I didn’t like our look. We looked scared. And they took advantage of it,” Vachon said. “Our starts are horrid. They’re awful. We’re trying to figure that out.”

Slow starts have been the rule rather than the exception for Maine. The Black Bears trailed early in an overtime loss to New Jersey Institute of Technology last Sunday. In a 65-53 win over Dartmouth on Dec. 19, Maine trailed 16-3 after one quarter before rallying in the second half to earn the win. Maine rallied again against Stony Brook, whittling a 21-point first-half deficit to nine in the third quarter, but they know they can’t count on the comeback every time.

“Honestly, it’s all the starters. We have to figure it out, because we can’t go down that much in the first quarter and try to come back. Against a team like Stony Brook, it’s not going to work. We’re putting in the work every day. We just have to play with confidence in the first quarter,” said Simon, who scored a team-high 14 points.

Maine shot just 1 for 13 in the first quarter – 7.7 percent. The Black Bears shot better as the game went on, but not well, finishing 16 for 65 (29.1 percent). That’s around eight percent lower than their season percentage (37.2). Maine was just 6 for 26 from 3-point range, continuing another negative trend. The Black Bears are shooting just 25.3 percent from 3-point range (82 of 324).

Simon pointed to Maine’s previous game, a 65-44 win at Hartford on Wednesday. That night, the Black Bears scored 28 points in the first quarter and built an early lead. They did to Hartford what Stony Brook did to them.

Thursday, the Black Bears host New Hampshire. In the four days until then, a strong start will be the emphasis.

“The first five minutes are important. It shows,” Simon said.


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