UAlbany WBB Returns to AE Title Game after Craig, Richards Lead Great Danes Past Hartford 65-51
ALBANY, N.Y. – Led by 42 combined points from Megan Craig and Shereesha Richards, the 1-seeded UAlbany women’s basketball team is back in the America East title game for the third-straight year after defeating 5-seed Hartford 65-51 on Sunday in the America East semifinals.
UAlbany (27-4) will play the winner of Stony Brook-New Hampshire on Monday at 4 p.m. on ESPNU, seeking its third-consecutive America East title.
“The word is poise,” said UAlbany head coach Katie Abrahamson-Henderson. “Hartford is a great three-point shooting team. We made a great adjustment at the half, but had good poise offensively and defensively.”
After a 15-3 run to close out the first half up 30-20, UAlbany did not trail Hartford (13-18) the rest of the way.
Craig shot 10-15 from the field to finish with 23 points and six boards for UAlbany, while Richards was 7-11 shooting with 19 points and seven rebounds.
“Being in the conference championship game is something we have looked forward to all preseason, I am excited about tomorrow and to try to get that three-peat,” said Craig.
“Megan [Craig] and I knew we were going to get double-teamed,” said Richards. “We know is one of us is covered, the other is open.”
For Hartford, Amber Bepko shot 5-11 from three to conclude with 21 points, while Alyssa Englert had six points and five assists.
UAlbany attacked the paint early, finding Craig and Richards for layups to take a 4-0 lead. Hartford countered with a quick strike guard lineup to five points in a row, but UAlbany countered with its own 7-0 run on a Margarita Rosario corner three and two more Craig layups to go up 11-5 through five minutes.
The Hawks fired away from three, with Bepko hitting a couple of elbow threes en route to a 11-4 streak by Hartford to take a 17-15 advantage.
UAlbany kept going into the post, trying to beat Hartford’s zone defense. A Craig layup broke the Hartford run, while a Rosario three gave UAlbany the lead. The Great Danes made stops on defense and added to its burst with more layups, including Zakiya Saunders finding Richards on the fast break attempt, to surge forward with a 15-0 run for a 30-17 lead. Englert hit a three in the final half-minute, but UAlbany was up 30-20 going into the locker room.
Both teams continued their strategy in the second half, with Richards receiving a fast break pass from Royals to hit the layup and one to build the lead to 38-25 in the half’s opening 2:35.
With the visitors getting to within seven with help from a couple of threes, UAlbany countered with three consecutive layups from a trio of different players to rebuild the lead to 46-33 with 12:16 left.
The home team had a scoring drought with just two points in a span on five minutes. Hartford got to within eight in that time, capped by a long Englert three to beat the shot clock, making it 50-42 UAlbany. Royals ended the run with an elbow three, with Richards adding two free throws to put UAlbany back up 13.
A last gasp by Hartford on a Bepko three and Morgan Lumb free throws brought the Hawks within nine with 2:17 remaining. UAlbany did not allow any more points to Hartford, holding off Hartford’s three-point shooting attack and scoring the final five points for the eventual 65-51 final score.