UAlbany Women’s Basketball Returns to Fifth Straight America East Title Game, Dominates Tournament Host Binghamton 79-43
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VESTAL, N.Y. – The 1-seed UAlbany women’s basketball team took down America East Tournament host Binghamton 79-43, led by 33 points from Shereesha Richards, to return to the conference title game for the fifth season in a row.
“I am proud of them, we only had a day to prepare, and the last two games against [Binghamton] were close,” said UAlbany head coach Katie Abrahamson-Henderson. “Everyone really contributed today, especially defensively, and we had good ball movement to get Shereesha [Richards] the ball.”
With the victory, UAlbany (26-4) will host 2-seed Maine for the America East title game on Friday, March 11th at 4:30 p.m. on ESPNU. UAlbany is looking to be the first ever America East basketball team to earn five consecutive league tournament titles.
UAlbany’s victories in the America East Tournament this year were by the biggest scoring margins in program history with +52 over Vermont yesterday and +36 over Binghamton today.
Outscoring Binghamton (14-17) 19-7 in the first quarter, UAlbany never trailed against its SUNY rival. The Great Danes held Binghamton to 25% shooting and outrebounded the Bearcats 50-36. On the offensive side, UAlbany shot 47.8% and notched 24 assists on 32 field goals against the team with the America East Defensive Player of the Year, Alyssa James.
Richards went 14-for-23 from the field and nearly had a double-double on 33 points, nine rebounds and three steals. She set a new UAlbany women’s basketball single season scoring record, standing with 704 career points. She broke her own record of 694 set last year.
“The last two games [against Binghamton], we didn’t key on their go to players,” said Richards. “We keyed on them today. We also kept running and picked up the [pace of] play.”
Tiana-Jo Carter earned 11 points, eight rebounds and four blocks off the bench. Imani Tate notched a career-high 11 assists, adding nine points, five rebounds and three steals while Zakiya Saunders tallied 10 points, six boards, four assists and three steals.
For Binghamton, Imani Watkins concluded with 14 points, six rebounds and three steals. Kim Albrecht had 11 points and five rebounds while James got eight points, nine boards and three blocks.
Early on, UAlbany forced a pair of steals, leading to a quick 4-0 run off a Saunders mid-range jumper and a Richards steal and score. UAlbany kept the pressure up and forced action in the paint, with a Tate steal leading to a Saunders fast break score for an 8-0 lead three minutes in.
UAlbany continued the aggressive zone and half court traps as Saunders and Richards scored off steals in the paint. The opening run continued to 14-0 through the first 6:33. After James scored on a jumper for Binghamton, twice Richards broke through underneath the basket to put UAlbany’s lead to 18-2.
A couple of late Binghamton baskets, including a deep three by Watkins, made it 19-7 UAlbany after one quarter.
The two sides countered each other in the early part of the 2nd as each avoided turnovers and hit jumpers. Two straight layups by Richards were countered by a deep two from Albrecht and a corner three on a kickout by McKayla Hernandez to pull Binghamton within nine at 25-16 with under six minutes in the 2nd.
UAlbany made adjustments on defense after a timeout and started to force steals again as the pace of play picked up. Started by a Carter turnaround jumper, UAlbany continued to attack the paint, leading to contact and free throws. A last second arc pass from Saunders to Carter for the layup gave UAlbany a 38-20 advantage at the break.
Into the third, the two sides exchanged baskets with jumpers against the zone defense. At 42-26, UAlbany twice found Erin Coughlin for kick-out threes next to the bench. Richards added two free throws to complete the 8-0 run and put UAlbany up 50-26 with six minutes left in the 3rd.
James and Watkins tried to cut into the deficit, with the latter hitting a corner three with the free throw after a foul. UAlbany countered again with Richards making layups, netting three in an 8-0 run. The Great Danes led 60-33 after three quarters.
UAlbany began to use the shot clock and elongate its possessions. The scoring slowed as at 65-37 UAlbany with 7:12 left, no team scored for over three minutes.
Watkins hit a jumper with just under four minutes left to pull the designated home team within 26. Richards hit a basket and one, coming off to an ovation from the UAlbany fans in attendance.
In the earlier game, Maine defeated 3-seed Stony Brook 51-48, finishing the game on a 14-6 run to win.