BANGOR — The Cross Insurance Center crowd began applauding in the closing minutes Friday, a throwback feeling to when the University of Maine women’s basketball team routinely knocked off nationally known opponents.

It came as the Black Bears finished off a stunner, upsetting Purdue 67-47 in the first game of the Maine Tip-Off tournament before 2,416 fans.

“We’re on the cusp of going back to being a team people are thinking about,” Maine Coach Richard Barron said. “It’s been a long time.”

Maine (1-0) will play Saturday night in the championship game against 10th-ranked Mississippi State, which routed Villanova.

Purdue (0-1) will play Villanova in the first game Saturday at 5 p.m.

The last time Maine was a true force was more than a decade ago, when Sharon Versyp coached the Black Bears.


Versyp now coaches Purdue and witnessed Maine’s breakthrough.

“They have a really nice team,” Versyp said. “They’re good now and they’ll continue to get better.”

This was the first time Maine beat a Big Ten team since Versyp’s Black Bears beat Michigan in 2004.

Maine took a 25-6 lead and held off the Boilermakers’ runs.

Senior Sigi Koizar and freshman Blanca Millan paced the Black Bears with 17 points apiece. Freshman Laia Sole added 14.

Of Maine’s top eight players Friday, six are freshmen.


“You would never have known they were freshmen,” Versyp said.

“They kicked our butts (in the first quarter) and we never recovered.”

The three starting freshmen all hail from Spain – guards Millan and Naira Caceres, and Sole, a 6-foot-2 post player.

Millan made two of her four steals in the opening minutes and was 3 of 5 on 3-pointers.

“We talked about being aggressive so every time I tried to steal the ball,” said Millan, who enjoyed her college debut. “I was more excited than nervous. I never played in front of a crowd like this.”

Sole competed against taller and quicker players inside, making nifty drives inside and hitting open jumpers.


“I’m not used to playing against these kind of players,” Sole said. “They are so athletic. I have to play smarter.”

The freshmen are complimented by a Duquesne transfer, Tanesha Sutton (12 points/eight rebounds), and Koizar, the two-time America East first-team selection.

Koizar was solid running the offense (four assists, one turnover) and scored from the outside (two 3s) and on drives.

But while Koizar is the only returning starter, she doesn’t need to carry these young Black Bears.

“People say there’s so much pressure on me because I’m a senior and no one has played before,” Koizar said. “But it doesn’t feel like it … Everybody is new to this but they don’t play scared.”

Maine took a 36-18 halftime lead and worked it to 51-26 in the third quarter. The Boilermakers went on a 10-point run but the Black Bears weren’t threatened.

“They made some runs but the cushion helped us,” Barron said. “We were able to play loose.”

Maine shot 48 percent to Purdue’s 31 percent.

“They got off to such a great start and built that confidence,” Versyp said. “And we didn’t shoot well at all.”

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.