For those watching the University of Maine women’s basketball team for the first time Saturday, here are three words to describe the Black Bears this year: You. Never. Know.

“You still don’t know 100 percent what you’re going to get,” said Maine associate head coach Amy Vachon, who has been directing the team while head coach Richard Barron has been on a medical leave for two months.

Maine begins play Saturday in the America East tournament, being held in Portland for the first time at Cross Insurance Arena. The Black Bears (16-15 overall, 9-7 in America East) are seeded fourth among eight teams and will play a quarterfinal against No. 5 Binghamton (13-16, 8-8) at approximately 2:30 p.m.

“It really is a wide-open tournament,” Vachon said. “I feel very confident going against any team. That being said, any team can beat us.”

The Black Bears lost 58-52 at Binghamton on Jan. 28, then beat the Bearcats on Sunday, 62-49 in Bangor. The second game was closer than the score indicated; Binghamton trailed by four early in the fourth quarter.

“We were still in the game,” Binghamton Coach Linda Comino said. “We just never got over the hump.”

The same can be said about the Black Bears in many of their losses. They play well – at times.

Part of the reason is youth. Except senior Sigi Koizar and redshirt sophomore Tanesha Sutton, most of Maine’s contributors are freshmen – a touted recruiting class that has both talent and inexperience.

“I know what I will get from Sigi and I know what I will get from Tanesha,” Vachon said.

As for the rest?

“We’ll see if they can step up to the challenge,” Vachon said.

“They’re definitely tired of hearing about being freshmen. I tell them if you don’t want people to say that anymore, you have to play more consistently. They understand that.”

The freshmen with the most playing time are 5-foot-11 guard Blanca Millan, 6-2 forward Laia Sole, 5-8 guard Julie Brosseau, 6-foot guard Naira Caceres, 6-1 forward Fanny Wadling and 6-3 forward Anita Kelava.

Here’s a quick scouting report:

Koizar, a 5-8 guard, controls the tempo and leads the team with a 13.8 scoring average. She drives aggressively and has made 53 of 175 3-pointers (30 percent). But she can get cold, like her 1-for-9 performance against Binghamton on Sunday.

“They’re going to fall,” Koizar said with a shrug. “This game they didn’t. Usually they do.”

Sutton, a 5-10 guard who can soar, is often a mismatch against other guards underneath. She and Millan are the best defenders, and Sutton leads the team with five rebounds per game.

The other top 3-point shooters are Brosseau (57 of 169, 34 percent) and Millan (39 of 128, 30 percent).

Sole is the best player underneath, with quick moves and a 9.9 scoring average.

BINGHAMTON IS normally good at ball control, although Maine forced the Bearcats into 18 turnovers Sunday. When Binghamton is going well, 5-8 guard Imani Watkins is driving and hitting 3-pointers (80 of 233, 34 percent). She averages 19.2 points.

Maine could have trouble matching the strength of 6-1 Alyssa James, the league’s defensive player of the year. She averages 11.1 points and 6.8 rebounds.

Binghamton also has two seniors from Maine – forward Kristin Ross (Gorham) and guard Kylie Libby (South Portland).

Maine plays Binghamton in the second quarterfinal, 30 minutes after the end of the noon game between top-seeded New Hampshire (25-4, 15-1) and No. 8 Stony Brook (12-17, 2-6).

NEW HAMPSHIRE has won 19 of its last 20 games, the lone loss a 65-54 decision at Albany, the five-time defending conference champion.

UNH is led by 6-2 junior center Carlie Pogue (16.8 points, 7.2 rebounds per game), and two transfers from Marist – 6-2 junior Kat Fogarty (10.5 points) and 5-6 junior guard Brittni Lai (10.5). Kristen Anderson, a 5-7 senior guard from Greene, averages 4.8 assists.

“They’re a very good team,” said Vachon, whose Black Bears have lost twice to New Hampshire – 50-44 at UNH on Jan. 19 and 65-57 in Bangor on Feb. 15.

“They’re a veteran team and they find a way to win.”

Other Wildcats from Maine are 6-3 sophomore Ashley Story (Cumberland), usually the first post player off the bench, and 5-8 freshman guard Sarah Clement (Falmouth), who is sitting out this year because of a knee injury.

HONORS: Koizar was named to the America East first team for the third straight year at the league’s postseason banquet Friday night, and Sole and Millan both made the all-rookie team. Sole also was chosen as Sixth Player of the Year.

New Hampshire’s Pogue received the Player of the Year award, and UNH’s Maureen Magarity is Coach of the Year. Sierra DaCosta of Hartford is Rookie of the Year.

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