BANGOR — This University of Maine women’s basketball team has work to do, which was expected after losing so many players from last year.

The Black Bears opened their America East Conference schedule Wednesday night with a 64-56 win over Stony Brook before about 600 fans at the Cross Insurance Center.

Maine, predicted to finish sixth in the nine-team league after two players graduated and five others transferred, is 8-6 overall. The Seawolves, predicted to finish eighth, also are 8-6.

The Black Bears trailed for a good deal of the first half before pulling away.

“I’m happy that we won but I know we can do much better,” said Blanca Millan, who led Maine with 20 points. “In the (nonleague schedule), we did a much better job against much better teams.”

Julie Brosseau added 19 for Maine. Fanny Wadling had seven points and seven rebounds.

Those three sophomores – Millan, Brosseau and Wadling – were part of the stellar international recruiting class of seven players from a year ago. The other four transferred, leading to doubt about this season.

In the Black Bears’ nonleague schedule, they lost to a handful of NCAA tournament teams, including three nationally ranked opponents, and romped past the likes of Maine Maritime and UMaine-Fort Kent.

There were encouraging signs, including a 61-40 rout at Boston College (5-9) last week.

“I was very happy. That was a tough (nonleague) schedule,” Coach Amy Vachon said. “We didn’t really have bad losses. We won the games we were supposed to, and I loved the way we came back after Christmas against BC.”

Wednesday night showed Maine’s strength – Millan’s all-around game, Brosseau’s outside shooting (four 3-pointers) and the 6-1 Wadling’s inside play – and the Black Bears’ fragility with depth. Because of foul trouble, 5-10 junior guard and leader Tanesha Sutton played only 14 minutes, and Maine stumbled.

“It’s hard when Tanesha isn’t in,” Vachon said. “She does so much for us – finding open shooters, making good decisions. We were stagnant at times.”

Maine’s depth is questionable but on Wednesday, it got six points and a game-high nine rebounds from 5-11 freshman Maeve Carroll.

Vachon had to recruit quickly to fill the gaps in the roster, and Carroll is one who will help.

The Black Bears are also getting quality minutes from 5-8 junior guard Parise Rossignol from Van Buren. Rossignol took last year off but is now in the rotation, the first reserve guard.

Rossignol banked in a 3-pointer at the buzzer for a 25-25 halftime tie.

Stony Brook is rebuilding with seven freshmen and two junior college transfers, including Shania Johnson (19 points, five 3-pointers).

Maine couldn’t shake the Seawolves until moving the ball better in the second half, passing inside and out. Maine shot 33 percent the first half and 50 percent the second.

“Once we get the ball moving, it can be easy,” Millan said. “Everyone on our team can score.”

Maybe so, but the Black Bears need Millan. She has scored in double figures in 13 straight games and is averaging 17.1 points. She also had three steals.

“Blanca has been consistent all year,” Vachon said. “We pretty much know what we’re going to get from her.”

Maine led 62-56 with 1:52 remaining. After the Black Bears turned the ball over, Stony Brook missed two free throws with 28 seconds left. Rossignol clinched it with two free throws.

NOTES: Maine plays again Saturday in Bangor at 1 p.m., against Binghamton (9-4). … Six-time defending champion Albany looks to be the class of the conference again with an 11-2 nonleague record. But the Great Danes got thumped Wednesday at Hartford, 70-55.

Kevin Thomas can be reached at 791-6411 or:

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Twitter: @KevinThomasPPH