It was tough enough for the University of Maryland-Baltimore County to shoot the ball without the University of Maine stealing it.

But there was Blanca Millan in the first half, reaching in for a takeaway. She raced down the court and passed to Parise Rossignol for a fast-break basket and free throw.

Maine led 33-13 and had no worries. The top-seeded Black Bears romped past the Retrievers 65-43 in an America East quarterfinal Saturday at Cross Insurance Arena.

Millan paced Maine with 21 points and four steals. Parise Rossignol scored 15, and Tanesha Sutton added 11 points and 10 rebounds.

Maine (21-9) advanced to Sunday’s 2 p.m. semifinals against fifth-seeded New Hampshire (19-11), which upset fourth-seeded Stony Brook, 71-54.

Sunday’s game will be a rematch of last year’s semifinals, when Maine shocked then top-seeded UNH, 61-52.

Eighth-seeded UMBC finished 5-26.

“Maine is playing at a really high level right now,” UMBC Coach Phil Stern said. “It’s fun to watch them play, actually.”

The Black Bears took charge from the start with their league-leading defense. They led 13-4 after the first quarter, holding the Retrievers to 1-of-17 shooting.

“We were a little unlucky but they played really good defense,” Stern said. “We really believed that we could (upset Maine). Obviously, shooting 1 of 17 put us into a deeper hole than we could recover from.”

Maine kept up the pressure, taking a 33-15 halftime lead and cruising from there.

“We came out defensively really, really well,” Black Bears Coach Amy Vachon said.

Maine, which gave up a league-low 56 points per game, allowed little inside, contested outside shots, and then there was Millan.

“We know how good she is at steals,” Rossignol said. “When she gets one, you know if you bust down the end of the court she’s going to find you for an easy two.”

UMBC tried a few defensive tricks, including a triangle-and-two to slow Millan and Julie Brosseau, an outside shooter.

“We had to make an adjustment and we knew where the open shot would be – a 3-pointer on the wing,” Rossignol said. “We took advantage of that.”

Rossignol took advantage. She hit 5 of 8 shots, including two 3-pointers and two jumpers.

“I was happy to see my shot fall today,” said Rossignol, a junior from Van Buren whose 15 points was a career high.

“But we have so many weapons. Anyone on our team can go off at any time. We’re clicking right now. A perfect time.”

The Black Bears recorded 15 assists on their 23 field goals. They had only seven turnovers.

“We like to move the ball,” Vachon said. “We like to find the open shooter. Anyone can step up.

“When they share the ball, they’re hard to guard … Fifteen assists on seven turnovers is a great ratio.”

Freshman point guard Dor Saar, voted the America East Rookie of the Year, had three assists and no turnovers for the Black Bears.

“They run their plays really well, and execute them,” said Janee’a Summers, who led the Retrievers with 13 points.

UMBC’s top player, guard Laura Castaldo, was guarded by Millan and held to nine points.

Millan, a 6-foot-1 sophomore guard, was named Friday night to the all-conference first-team and all-defensive team. Besides her steals and fast breaks Saturday, she hit 3 of 7 of her 3-pointers (Maine was 7 of 22).

“We have great players and Coach Amy knows exactly what we need to do,” Millan said.

“We just follow what she says.”

Vachon, sitting next to Millan in the postgame press conference, smiled. “Good answer,” she said.

Vachon began substituting out her top players with 7:30 left. At the 3:16 mark, all the starters were on the bench. They could begin focusing on Sunday’s semifinal.

“It was nice to have a comfortable win,” Sutton said, “and now we’re focused on our next opponent.”

Kevin Thomas can be reached at 791-6411 or:

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Twitter: @KevinThomasPPH