Wanted: Women with an attitude. Candidates must be willing and able to play tenacious defense and rebound with reckless abandon. Scoring prowess not required.
University of Maine women’s basketball coach Joanne Palombo often makes a similar plea to her players. She knows if the Black Bears don’t adopt that philosophy, they won’t achieve their potential.
The next opportunity for Maine to exhibit those qualities comes tonight at 7:30, when the Bears play 15th-ranked Western Kentucky at Alfond Arena in Orono.
As evidenced by last week’s loss at Drexel, UMaine has not yet achieved the kind of cohesiveness and intensity it seeks.
“I never feel like you have to lose to learn, but in that game we learned the value of defense and rebounding and preparing mentally for a game,” Palombo said.
Senior Sandi Carver realizes she and fellow captain Cindy Blodgett must set the emotional tone.
“Defense is all about heart and just wanting it more than the other team,” Carver said. “We’re trying to get in our teammates’ faces and get an attitude on defense.”
Maine, which has allowed 74.4 points per contest, had given up only 63.0 per game at the same juncture last season. Its defenses have been successful, at times.
“The issue is consistency, not playing one defense over another,” Palombo said. “The really mature teams, in my experience at Maine, really learn to value some of those things I’ve suggested.”
The Bears also have been less effective rebounding this season. Maine has averaged 39.1 rebounds, 3.8 per game fewer than last year.
Sophomore center Jamie Cassidy leads the team with 8.7 per outing, followed by forward Klara Danes (6.0) and guards Blodgett (4.6) and Amy Vachon (4.3).
“[Rebounding] is heart and hustle,” Palombo said. “I really think rebounding is the will to do it.”
Intensity shouldn’t be a problem for UMaine tonight. Palombo said the Bears can’t afford letdowns.
“We have to have a little more of an attitude about rebounding and defense, and fear no one,” she said.
Carver said Maine’s offensive potency can lead to complacency.
“I think when we do go out and get really caught up in the offense, we let the offense dictate our defense. It needs to be the other way around,” Carver said.
“If anybody thinks we’re going to beat [good] teams by outscoring them, they’re crazy,” Palombo said.
A win over Western Kentucky would give 12-3 Maine more leverage come NCAA Tournament seeding time, but the Bears are likely to have their hands full. On Sunday, the Lady Toppers knocked off No. 4 Louisiana Tech 88-86 on the road.
“They’re coming to our place and we’re all pretty fired up for it,” Carver said. “We just want to go out and prove what we can do.”