Maine pulls away from NJIT for 72-48 America East semifinal win

ORONO — It’s been a growing season for University of Maine sophomore point guard Alba Orois.

This is his first season starting and leading the Black Bears offense, his first season as the late Dor Saar, one of the best point guards in team history.

Orois showed how much she had improved on Tuesday night and gave a packed house at Memorial Gym, also known as the Pit, a preview of things to come.

Orois scored a game-high 20 points on 9-of-12 shooting to lead the Black Bears to a 72-48 win over New Jersey Institute of Technology in the America East semifinals.

“She plays both sides of the ball so well,” Maine coach Amy Vachon said of Orois.

With the win, Maine’s 14th straight, the Black Bears secured a berth in the Conference Championship Game for the seventh straight season (the 2020 Finals was canceled. Maine (20-10) will host Albany at Memorial Gym at 5 p.m. Friday in a game televised on ESPNU.NJIT ends the season at 15-15.

NJIT played without starting point guard Lyzi Litwinko, who was injured. Orois was there whenever needed. In addition to his 20 points, Orois had seven assists, two steals and no turnovers.

When Maine needed a big hit, it was Orois who took it and did it. When NJIT cut Maine’s lead to 38-31 early in the third quarter, the 5-foot-7 Orois drove the lane to his left, turning for a layup to cut Maine’s lead to nine. points. Minutes later, after the Highlanders cut Maine’s lead to 40-34, Orois drove the baseline, taking a pass from Maeve Carroll for a layup and a 42-34 lead.

“In that game, it was pretty open,” Orois said of his drives to the basket. “Playing with Maeve (Carroll) helps a lot. The defense has to decide where they want to go. It’s easier when you have teammates like the teammates I have.

Orois’ layup late in the third quarter gave Maine a 50-36 lead.

“Alba started painting, and once she starts painting, you’re kind of at her mercy, and it didn’t go well,” NJIT coach Mike Lane said.

Much of Maine’s offense came from its defense. The Black Bears forced 19 turnovers and edged the Highlanders in points on turnovers, 31-5.

“I felt like defensively we were really locked into what we wanted to do for the most part. We put pressure on them in the first half and created some turnovers,” Vachon said.

Four black bears scored in double figures. Carroll had 16 points to go with 10 rebounds. Caroline Boardmann had 12 points and Anne Simon added 11. Maine had 24 assists on 29 shots.

The Black Bears led 36-24 at the half. The Highlanders made a run in the third quarter, cutting Maine’s lead to 40-34 midway through the quarter. From there, the Black Bears closed out the quarter with a 10-2 run, taking a 50-36 lead in the fourth.

The Black Bears retired in the fourth. Straight 3s from Olivia Rockwood (nine points, all in the fourth) and Simon pushed Maine’s lead to 63-42 with 6:10 remaining.

“We couldn’t get it back under our control. We did a really good job for two and a half quarters,” Lane said.

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