Women's Basketball Defeats Maine 64-60 On Senior Day
ALBANY, N.Y. – Playing in the final home game of the 2016-17 regular season, in addition to celebrating Senior Day, the University at Albany women’s basketball team (16-11, 10-4 AE) hosted Maine (15-15, 8-7 AE) for the second of two regular-season meetings between last year’s America East finalists. Earlier this season at Maine, UAlbany fell by a score of 81-74. This time, the Great Danes opened up a double-digit lead and held off a surge from the Black Bears to take the game 64-60.
“We’re really happy to pull out that win,” said head coach Joanna Bernabei-McNamee. “I thought we had a great crowd for senior night, and I would have liked to get all the seniors in the game to give them that standing ovation at the end, but we made that game so interesting at the end that we didn’t have the opportunity to do so.
“Coming out with a win at this time of the year is always important,” Coach Mac continued. “I think showing the fortitude to stick together and get stops when Maine got close was important.”
Senior Bailey Hixson scored the first points of the game, a deep three from the left side assisted by a cross-court pass from fellow senior Imani Tate less than 15 seconds after the Great Danes won the opening tip. A minute later, redshirt-junior Jessica Féquière hit a three from the same spot to give UAlbany a 6-0 lead.
Tate scored her first points with 6:51 remaining in the first quarter, which gave her 1,643 for her career, supplanting Ebone Henry for second place in program history in career scoring.
Maine managed to cut the game to three points before UAlbany extended their lead to 11 as part of a 7-7 shooting run.
Maine hit a buzzer beater at the end of the first to close within eight, trailing UAlbany 22-14. Hixson had scored eight points in 3-3 shooting from the floor, including 2-2 from three in eight minutes of play.
After Maine had closed within five, Hixson hit her third three pointer of the first half to bring the Danes’ lead back to eight. Late in the second Maine pulled within four, until UAlbany stretched the lead back to 10, and by the end of the first half the Great Danes led by nine, 35-26.
Maine had kept the scoring closer in the second quarter, ending with a deficit of just one point following an eight-point disadvantage from the first quarter. Hixson led the Great Danes with 13 points, and Tate led with four rebounds and four assists. UAlbany outscored Maine 18-10 in points in the paint and 6-2 in fast break points. Maine led 10-8 in points off of turnovers and 13-9 in bench points. The teams each had seven second chance points.
After shooting 75.0% from the floor in the first quarter, the Great Danes cooled off a bit in the second, shooting 40.0%. But the UAlbany defense had held Maine to 34.5% shooting for the first half, including just 3-12 from three.
The beginning of the third quarter played out in much the same way as the second, with UAlbany holding a 10-point lead through the mid-way point. Junior Tiana-Jo Carter had climbed into double digits in scoring, and sophomore Heather Forster trailed just behind with eight. Forster broke into double digits with four minutes remaining in the third with a put-back layup.
Late in the third, UAlbany traded twos for Maine threes for a handful of possessions, leading the Black Bears to close the game within seven points. By the end of the quarter, UAlbany held a 55-47 lead. Despite shooting 52.9% to Maine’s 42.1% from the floor in the third, UAlbany suffered a one-point deficit in the quarter.
It took Maine just one minute at the start of the fourth to bring the game within three points, thanks to a 5-0 run to start the quarter. A minute later Maine trailed by just one. After UAlbany broke through Maine’s run, the Black Bears underwent a scoring drought lasting in excess of three minutes. UAlbany, however, had not scored in more than two minutes.
Féquière hit a three following the media timeout to extend the lead to six, and Maine responded with consecutive threes on the other end to cut the lead to two.
With 50 seconds remaining, Forster blocked a layup attempt out of bounds to maintain UAlbany’s two-point lead, and grabbed the ensuing defensive rebound after forcing a bad shot. Redshirt-junior Bose Aiyalogbe drew a foul with 11.2 remaining to give UAlbany an inbounds play underneath the Maine basket. The Danes successfully got the ball to Féquière, who hit two free throws after being fouled, to give UAlbany a four-point lead with 9.8 left. The Danes would hold that four-point lead until the clock expired, winning 64-60.
Hixson led UAlbany with 15 points. Carter scored 11, and Forster and Féquière each had 10. Forster led with eight rebounds, and Tate led with six assists. UAlbany led Maine 36-16 in points in the paint and 17-15 in second chance points. Maine held advantages of 15-13 in points off of turnovers, 6-2 in fast break points, and 23-19 in bench points.
Following the game, the team honored the four seniors on the roster: Aubrey Hernandez, Bailey Hixson, Cassandra Edwards, and Imani Tate. Over the last three plus seasons, the quartet has contributed for a 96-30 record, including the last three America East titles, a home-game winning streak lasting 24 games, and the program’s first-ever NCAA tournament victory.
“The seniors set the tone and the culture for this team right off the bat,” said Coach Mac. “It wasn’t us as a coaching staff, it was them as leaders. And that was really nice. All of them could have easily jumped ship and played somewhere else when the new coaching staff came in, but they didn’t. They put this team on their back every night and every in practice and that’s what I love about them.”
The Great Danes will close out the 2016-17 regular season with two road games, first at Vermont on February 23, and finally at Hartford on February 26.