Women's Basketball Advances to America East Semifinals; Wins Record 15th Straight Tournament Game
PORTLAND, Maine - The University at Albany women’s basketball team (19-11, 12-4 AE) opened play in the America East Tournament Saturday against tournament #7 Vermont. The Great Danes defeated the Catamounts 65-45 for the program’s 15th consecutive tournament victory, breaking a tie with Maine’s run from 1995-99 for the longest winning streak in tournament history. It was also head coach Joanna Bernabei-McNamee’s 100th career victory as a head coach.
“It was nice to get this game under our belts,” said Coach Mac. “We have freshmen and young kids out there, and the returners know what this is all about but we had some new faces who needed to work the kinks out. I think we spent the first half doing that. As the game went on I thought we showed more of the style we want to play.”
The first basket of the game wasn’t scored until 7:13 remaining in the first, when Vermont finally broke through the UAlbany paint for a layup. Freshman Mackenzie Trpcic scored UAlbany’s first points with 6:30 remaining in the quarter. Before Trpcic scored, UAlbany missed its first seven shots taken in the game.
By the first quarter media timeout, Vermont held a 4-2 lead. Senior Cassandra Edwards ended a scoring drought exceeding three minutes for UAlbany with a short jumper in the paint driving to her right. After senior Imani Tate hit one of two free throws, the Great Danes suffered another extended scoring drought, lasting nearly 2:30, before Tate scored a jumper from the right side. The score at the end of the first quarter was 10-7 in favor of Vermont. UAlbany had shot 3-17 from the floor in the quarter.
Where UAlbany seemed just a half-step out of sync during the first quarter, the Great Dane defense saw an uptick in intensity as soon as the second quarter started. UAlbany forced a Vermont turnover in the Catamounts first possession of the second quarter, but immediately threw the ball away. The Danes forced another turnover on the next possession, leading to two points from redshirt-junior Jessica Féquière. A third consecutive turnover led to two more points from freshman Khepera Stokes, giving UAlbany its first lead of the game.
Tate scored a jumper to give the Great Danes a three point lead, capping off a 6-0 run to open the quarter that forced a Vermont timeout. UAlbany held Vermont scoreless through the first 4:19 of the second quarter before the Catamounts hit a three to cut the lead to two.
A second consecutive three-pointer from Vermont gave the Catamounts a one-point lead at the mid-way point of the quarter. Tate got the lead back for UAlbany with a pair of free throws.
The Great Danes started to pull away a little by the end of the quarter, entering halftime with a six-point, 29-23 lead. UAlbany held Vermont without a field goal for the final 2:32 of the quarter. Tate led UAlbany with nine points, followed by Trpcic with eight. Junior Tiana-Jo Carter led the team with five rebounds, and Féquière led with two assists. Stokes had recorded four steals.
Through two quarters, UAlbany led Vermont 13-10 in points off of turnovers, 4-0 in second chance points, and 13-2 in bench points. Vermont led 10-4 in points in the paint and 6-0 in fast break points.
Senior Bailey Hixson hit a three-pointer 20 seconds into the third quarter to extend UAlbany’s lead to nine. Tate scored a transition layup following a steal by Féquière to force a Vermont timeout. The Great Danes’ lead extended to double digits after Stokes hit a jumper with eight minutes remaining in the quarter.
A quick 6-0 run by the Catamounts cut the lead to seven. UAlbany responded with a 9-0 in the next two and a half minutes. A 6-0 run to close the quarter gave the Great Danes a 55-36 lead heading into the fourth.
Immediately after the fourth quarter started the Great Danes extended their lead to 20. By the fourth quarter media timeout the Great Danes led 57-38. UAlbany would continue to hold a 20 point lead, give or take a point or two, for the remainder of the game, winning by a final score of 65-45.
“I could almost read their minds during the first half,” said Coach Mac. “They just continued to be leaders out there. This is a good group and as they game went on they got everyone in control.”
Tate led the team with 16 points, followed by Féquière with 13. Féquière and Carter led with eight rebounds, and Tate had five assists. Stokes and Hixson each had four steals, and Carter had two blocks.
UAlbany outscored Vermont 24-12 in points in the pain, 18-12 in points off of turnovers, 10-0 in second chance points, 8-6 in fast break points, and 21-7 in bench points. As a team, UAlbany held Vermont to 26.5% shooting from the floor, and forced 26 turnovers.
The Great Danes will play the winner of the late game between tournament #3 UMBC and #6 Hartford on Sunday at 4:30 p.m.
“Both teams play with two different styles, but both with a lot of hustle. Again, this is everybody’s third time around playing each other, so for us we just have to make sure we are on our A games tomorrow.”