Dor Saar advances down the court during a game against the University of Maryland-Baltimore County in an American East quarterfinal game at the Cross Insurance Arena on March 3. (Gregory Rec/Portland Press Herald Photo)

ORONO — On the University of Maine’s first possession Saturday, Blanca Millan stood in the right corner and, after a quick look at Dor Saar, broke to the basket.

Saar, standing out beyond the 3-point line, never hesitated, throwing a perfect bounce pass off her dribble to the cutting Millan, her defender unaware of the pass that would lead to a Millan layup just 29 seconds into the 2018-19 season.

That play highlighted just what Saar, a sophomore point guard from Israel, means to the Black Bears women’s basketball team. It’s her job to direct the offense and she does it expertly.

“She’s very smart, has a very high basketball IQ,” said Maine head coach Amy Vachon, a former point guard for UMaine. “For a coach, to have a point guard with a high basketball IQ, it’s amazing. It’s really great to work with her. She’s better than I was.”

That’s heady praise from someone who as a player led the Black Bears to four consecutive NCAA tournament appearances and still holds the school records for career assists (759) and single-season assists (234).

But she’s not alone in thinking that Saar makes a difference.

“I love being on the floor with Dor,” said senior guard/forward Tanesha Sutton. “The way she sees the court, she makes the right passes and puts you in great position with the opportunity to score.”

Saar had a strong freshman year for the Black Bears, when she was named America East rookie of the year and helped the Black Bears make their first NCAA tournament appearance in 14 years. She averaged 5.6 points with 93 assists — second on the team to Sutton.

And if the opening game is any indication, Saar is going to be a bigger scorer this year. She scored 15 points, hitting four 3-pointers, with five assists in 29 minutes in Maine’s 73-59 win over Toledo on Saturday. The Black Bears play their second game Tuesday at Bryant University.

“I think last year she was just getting to know the ropes,” Vachon said. “She was directing traffic and making sure we got good looks at the basket. This year I look for her to be more aggressive offensively.”

“She’s our floor general and super-talented,” said senior guard Parise Rossignol. “She finds the open man and, as you saw (against Toledo), if you leave her open she’ll hit her shots.”

Saar, who sat out much of the third quarter with four fouls against Toledo, said she is more comfortable this year. She came to Maine with a strong resume, having played at the Israeli Basketball Academy and playing for Israeli national youth-level teams in international tournaments. But she was not only away from home, but in another country and it took time to adjust.

“I just feel like the freshman year is a different year than the others,” she said. “It takes time to get used to everything, just to get into the rhythm of everything. This year I know what is coming. I feel much more ready.”

“You can see how much she has improved,” said Millan, who led Maine with 18 points against Toledo. “It’s crazy. When she is playing point guard, we know we’re in good shape. When she has the ball, you know we’re going to be fine.”

While she played other sports in Israel, basketball was the sport that hooked her. The court became her haven.

“In general, this is the best game of any sport,” said Saar. “I know how to play soccer and volleyball but basketball was something else. I don’t know, I fell in love with the game. When I play it, I feel so good.

“I really like to practice, to go to the gym and work by myself, do some dribbling stuff, get some shots off. I feel really good after that. I just love playing.”

Having a head coach who was a point guard is also beneficial.

“Coach Vachon is a really good coach and I learn from her every day, a lot of stuff,” said Saar. “And I feel like she wants to hear what I’m saying too. It makes me feel good that she cares about what I’m thinking. Because she was a point guard, I think we see the game in the same way.”

Maine’s Dor Saar drives past Alexia Douglas of Hartford on March 9. (Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Portland Press Herald Photo)