UAlbany Women’s Basketball Takes #4/5 Tennessee to the Brink, Narrowly Falls 63-55
UAlbany Postgame Press Conference
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – The UAlbany women’s basketball battled relentlessly to the end and trailed just one possession with 20 seconds left at #4/5 Tennessee, falling just short 63-55 in Knoxville.
UAlbany (4-1) was down 12 to Tennessee (5-0) and fought back to take the lead in the third quarter. In the fourth, UAlbany again and again pulled to within one possession late off pressure defense and 28 points in the paint, but was not able bridge the gap.
This game at the Thompson-Boling Arena featured two teams that have each been to the last four NCAA Tournaments.
“I wanted them to be tough, I wanted them to be fighters, I did not want them affected by the crowd, and I wanted them to play like we know how they can play,” said UAlbany head coach Katie Abrahamson-Henderson. “They played great, they did a great job to stay calm and handle the press, and they defended [Tennessee’s] go-to players. I am very proud of them, they did a great job.”
As a team, UAlbany forced 13 steals to Tennessee’s eight and was narrowly edged in rebounding 33-29. No individual quarter saw a team score more than three points over the other.
Shereesha Richards earned a double-double with 19 points and 10 rebounds, leading all players in those categories. Imani Tate concluded with 15 points, five rebounds and five steals while Erin Coughlin netted four three-pointers for 12 points.
For Tennessee, Mercedes Russell led the Lady Volunteers with 12 points, five blocks and five rebounds. Diamond DeShields scored 11 points off the bench while Bashaara Graves tallied nine points and seven rebounds.
Both sides played a press early, with Tennessee going full court and UAlbany playing halfcourt. After Tennessee took an early 5-0 lead, UAlbany held its opponent without points for three minutes and went to the paint, cutting the deficit to one with 5:38 left in the 1st.
UAlbany looked to keep Tennessee out of the paint and forced longer shots. UT went on an 11-4 run on firing away, with five points from Alexa Middleton along the baseline. Richards chipped away at the deficit, hitting a top-of-the-arc three, then a layup after a feed from Tate off the double team. UAlbany was down 16-13 at the end of the first.
Tennessee got the first couple of baskets in the second off a long range Diamond DeShields three and a steal and layup on the press, adding to the run with four more points.
With a Coughlin three ending UT’s run, UAlbany continued to attack the paint and played pressure man-to-man defense. Capped by two layups from Heather Forster, UAlbany earned an 11-2 streak to pull within one. After a UT three-pointer, Richards scored two more layups, the first on a putback on her on miss and the second after Forster drew the double team underneath the basket, drawing UAlbany within one possession going into the locker room down 30-28.
After a Saunders free throw make, her second missed with Richards rebounding. Coughlin got the pass on the kick out and hit the wing three to put UAlbany ahead 32-30 in the second half’s first two minutes.
Tennessee went back up after a couple of layups by the tall frontcourt, adding a long range three by Bashaara Graves off the glass. UAlbany kept the zone defense and kept UT out of the paint. A wing kickout three by Coughlin tied the game up at 36-36.
UT got baskets in transition, leading to a quick 7-1 run, including five points and a steal from DeShields. Richards added three more points before the end of the quarter as UAlbany trailed 45-40 after three.
Early in the fourth, Tennessee built its lead to 52-42, including two layups from Jordan Reynolds in transition. UAlbany halted the run with a steal by Richards and score by Tate, then later a putback layup by Forster. After a free throw, UAlbany shots went down as Tate hit a runner and Coughlin hit a three off the screen to pull within two at 53-51 with four minutes left.
UAlbany kept countering Tennessee’s baskets, as Richards stole the ball and scored a layup on a fast break to pull UAlbany within one at 57-55. With the crowd trying to spur on the home team, the UAlbany defense forced Tennessee to throw the ball away for Great Danes’ possession with 30 seconds remaining.
UAlbany went to the paint with Richards, who just missed a layup against a tight defender. Graves rebounded the ball, was fouled and hit two free throws. Coughlin got off a three on the next possession, missing short. Tennessee hit free throws late to get the game 63-55.
UAlbany’s next game will be back home at the SEFCU Arena when the Great Danes host Providence on Tuesday, December 1st at 7 p.m.