ANNAPOLIS, Md. - Kara Pollinger (So., Fort Gay, W.Va.) sank 9-of-10 attempts from the field including all five of her three-point shots in helping lead the Navy women's basketball team to a 73-56 victory over Maine, Saturday afternoon at Alumni Hall in Annapolis. The win was Navy's second in as many days at the Navy Classic and was the third consecutive win by the Mids.
"We've carried things over from our game against Air Force on Monday," said Audrey Bauer (So., Lake Zurich, Ill.). "Everyone is excited and playing aggressive and being smart out there."
Maine's (3-5) Brittany Williams scored the first bucket of the game, but Navy (4-3) connected on three-point field goal attempts on three consecutive trips down the court to take a 9-2 lead. The Mids soon held a 20-16 lead before going on a 7-0 run to build a 27-16 advantage with five minutes left in the first half. The last three points of the run were tallied by Pollinger on her first triple of the game.
The Mids would go into halftime holding a 34-25 cushion, thanks in no small measure to their outside shooting. Navy was 4-of-10 in two-point attempts, 6-of-10 from three-point range and 8-of-14 from the foul line over the first 20 minutes of play. Pollinger paced the Mids with 11 first-half points.
Navy started the second half on a tear. Chey Arvin (Jr., Noblesville, Ind.) hit a jumper for the Mids and that was followed by Jade Geif (So., Lakeville, Minn.) scoring on an inside move. After a field goal from Maine's Samantha Baranowski cut the deficit down to 38-27, Arvin sank a triple to give Navy a 41-27 lead. Williams scored the second field goal of the half for the Black Bears on their next trip down the floor, but that was followed by a jumper from Bauer and back-to-back three-pointers from Pollinger to cap a 14-4 run by the Mids to start the half and give Navy a 48-29 lead five minutes into the half.
Navy would increase its lead to 20 points when a Bauer three pointer gave the Mids a 51-31 advantage with 13:20 showing on the clock. The gap between the teams would be at least 15 points over the remainder of the game.
"This is so exciting," said Navy head coach Stefanie Pemper. "I think we have been getting the same looks we had been at the start of the season. This weekend, we just figured some things out and started making them. I'm really happy for our team and am proud of them for working through their shooting woes."
Pollinger, who entered the 2011-12 season having made five three-point field goals during her entire 2010-11 freshman campaign, established a new career high for points scored in a game for the second time in a week. Her effort today bettered her previous career-best output of 16 points set one week ago today in Navy's game at Mount St. Mary's, and allowed her to garner MVP honors of the Navy Classic.
"I knew my role was going to be different this year," said Pollinger. "Now, as the games have gone on, I'm feeling more comfortable with what I need to do. It is just all starting to come together.
"I had been looking to get the ball to other people at the start of the year, but now I am starting to look for my shot more."
Pollinger's 90-percent shooting from the field is tied for the fourth-highest mark by a Mid in school history, while her perfect night from outside of the three-point line ties the Navy record for three-point percentage by a Mid with at least five attempts in a game. Previously, both Angela Dobbs and Heather Brand were 5-of-5 from three-point range in a game during the 1989-90 campaign.
"Kara is in such a huge role," said Bauer, who was named to the all-tournament team. "Not just as a point guard, but scoring, defensively, offensively, getting a lot of people open; she's really stepped up."
"Kara can shoot the ball," said Pemper. "She is from a small town in West Virginia, but she could really shoot the ball in high school. Now, Alix collapses the defense, Jade collapses the defense, and Alix Membreno's (So., Loxahatchee, Fla.) five assists tonight were huge; if we can keep having the defense collapse on us, Kara is going to have open shots."
Navy as a team connected in 12-of-22 three-point attempts in the game. That tally was just three treys away from tying the school single-game record of 15. In addition to Pollinger's effort from outside the arc, Bauer and Arvin were a combined 6-of-11 from three-point range. Bauer tied her career high with 15 points, while Arvin tallied 11 points in the game.
"We're getting a little more chemistry going on offense," said Bauer. "We are learning to find each other more as we are getting to play together more. This is a new year and a new team. We all have different roles out there and it is just a matter of finding what those are."
The Mids followed their 50-percent shooting effort from the field in the first half by sinking 55.6 percent of their shots in the second half. Helping the Mids to their strong shooting night was good ball movement. Navy accrued 18 assists on its 25 made field goals. Navy also did a good job of converting on Maine's mistakes as it tallied 25 points following the 13 turnovers the Mids forced the Black Bears into.
While Navy's offense was clicking, so too was its defense. In addition to forcing Maine into 13 turnovers, the Black Bears were held to 38.6-percent shooting for the game. Helping with that mark were the seven blocked shots recorded by the Mids.
"I liked our defense," said Pemper. "We couldn't guard Samantha Wheeler, so that was frustrating, but otherwise we did a pretty good job on the rest of the team."
Baranowski scored 14 points for Maine, while Wheeler finished the game with 14 points and nine rebounds.
Navy will continue its homestand with games next week against Siena (Dec. 7) and Princeton (Dec. 9).
Navy Classic All-Tournament Team Kara Pollinger, Navy (MVP) Audrey Bauer, Navy
Samantha Baranowski, Maine
Shanice Steenholdt, Houston Baptist
Tara Booker, George Washington