Women's Basketball Defeats Vermont 64-53 On Commitment to Education Day
ALBANY, N.Y. - Returning home after splitting a two-game road trip, the University at Albany women’s basketball team (10-10, 4-3 AE) hosted Vermont (5-14, 2-5 AE) on its 11th Commitment to Education Day. With around 1,000 students in attendance, the Great Danes defeated the Catamounts by a final score of 64-53.
“I loved the way we came out of the gate offensively,” said head coach Joanna Bernabei-McNamee. “That’s our goal as the year progresses, to get that momentum for 40 minutes. We’re still trying to figure that out, but the fact that we can show it in spurts tells us that we can do it. We just need to maintain it a little more and not go through the scoring droughts we’ve had.”
"Having the kids in the stands was great," Coach Mac continued. "The players I'm sure could feel their energy on the floor, and it's just so much fun to have that kind of environment with a bunch of screaming kids who are really into the game. I think our players are really good role models, so what a perfect environment to have a lot of kids with great young ladies to look up to."
Senior Imani Tate made her 50th career start, and sophomore Heather Forster made her 50th career appearance at UAlbany in today’s game, which started off in fitting fashion for the two players. After Forster tied the game at two, and the defense forced a turnover, Tate hit a three-pointer from five feet behind the arc as the shot clock wound down. The Great Danes defense forced a shot clock violation on Vermont’s next possession, and Tate scored another three afterwards to give UAlbany an 8-2 lead. Senior Bailey Hixson hit a three on UAlbany’s next offensive possession to extend the lead to nine.
A Vermont turnover saw Hixson running the court on a fast break, only to be fouled on her layup attempt. She hit both free throws, and then hit a layup on the Danes’ next possession, scoring seven consecutive points for UAlbany. The Great Danes ultimately put together a 15-2 run to open the game before Vermont scored again.
Freshman Mackenzie Trpcic made her first appearance since December 18, having missed the previous seven games with a foot injury. On her first shot attempt, she hit a three pointer from the top left corner, increasing UAlbany’s lead to 16. By the end of the first, Vermont had inched back a little, shrinking UAlbany’s lead to 23-13.
With Trpcic’s return, the Great Danes finally played their first game this season at full strength. Hixson eclipsed the 10-point mark 20 seconds into the second quarter on another three-pointer. Redshirt-junior Jessica Féquière next stole the ball from Vermont and hit a layup in transition, opening a quick 5-0 run for the Danes.
After UAlbany’s opening run, the quarter tightened up, and with two minutes remaining in the Great Danes only held a two-point advantage in second quarter scoring, with their overall lead hovering around 12 points. The Great Danes went into halftime holding a 13-point, 35-22 lead. Vermont had outscored UAlbany by 9-7 after the Danes’ opening 5-0 run.
Hixson led UAlbany with 10 points, followed by Tate with nine. Tate also led the team with five rebounds, and three other Danes each had three. Freshman Khepera Stokes led with four assists.
UAlbany led Vermont 10-8 in points in the paint, 10-2 in points off of turnovers, 3-2 in second chance points, and 10-7 in bench points. The teams were tied in fast break points 2-2.
In the first four minutes of the third, Vermont outscored UAlbany 8-4, closing the Great Dane lead to nine. With 90 seconds remaining, UAlbany’s lead had shrunk further to four, before senior Cassandra Edwards hit two free throws to bring the lead back to six. Despite being outscored 22-16 in the third, UAlbany pulled away slightly by the end of the quarter, taking a seven-point, 51-44 lead into the fourth.
“I thought Vermont made some good adjustments to our defense,” said Coach Mac. “They play a very good five-out motion, which is hard for our evolving man-to-man defense to guard. I thought at times we looked good but also not so good, but I’m really happy we got the win.”
UAlbany opened its lead to 11 following a 6-2 run to open the fourth quarter. With just under four minutes to play, Vermont had drawn within seven. A steal and transition layup by Stokes brought the lead back to nine. Vermont came as close as six with just over two minutes remaining, but UAlbany ultimately pulled away with a final score of 64-53.
Tate led all scorers with 29 points. She also led the Danes with nine rebounds. Stokes led with five assists. UAlbany outscored Vermont 26-16 in points in the paint, 20-8 in points off of turnovers, 13-8 in second chance points, 10-2 in fast break points, and 12-10 in bench points.
Next, UAlbany will host Hartford in its final game of the first cycle of the conference schedule. Tipoff is scheduled for 2:00 p.m. on Saturday, January 28.
“Our defense has to be on point with Hartford,” said Coach Mac. “And they do play a lot of zone, so we have to be ready to move the ball and hit open shots.”