Women's Basketball Wins Sixth-Straight America East Title
ALBANY, N.Y. – For the sixth consecutive season, the University at Albany (21-11, 12-4 AE) women’s basketball team has won the America East Championship. In a rematch of last year’s title game that saw the Great Danes edge out a one-point victory, UAlbany defeated Maine (18-16, 9-7 AE) at SEFCU Arena 66-50.
“I couldn’t be more excited and happy and proud of this team and this program,” said head coach Joanna Bernabei-McNamee. “These ladies go hard every day, and we just continue to remind them going in to this tournament that they work very hard in the summer time to preseason to in-season. I think we have great leaders and I think it showed tonight, so I’m very proud of them.”
Senior Imani Tate and freshman Mackenzie Trpcic were named to the All-Tournament team, and Tate took home the tournament Most Outstanding Player award. The women’s program increased its own conference records to six-straight titles and 17-straight tournament victories. Additionally Coach Mac is the first coach in America East history to guide a team to the title in their first year.
Maine scored the first points of the game on their second offensive possession. Tate immediately responded on the other end, putting the Great Danes on the board.
“I thought Maine came out of the gate playing hard and with nothing to lose,” said Coach Mac, “and I thought we came out of the gate a little tight, with everything to lose. And I think that’s what we saw until our nerves calmed down. In that first five, six minutes we were really only one-and-done offensively, getting one quick shot up and not really getting any rebounding out of it.”
Maine led 12-4 at the first quarter media timeout with 4:36 remaining. Technical difficulties with the scoreboard prevented the clock and the score from being displayed on the court.
“Honestly, I don’t think we realized the score because the scoreboard wasn’t up,” said Tate. “But once we realized it we knew we had to buckle down.”
The teams scored two points combined over the next three minutes, with Maine holding a 14-4 lead with 1:03 left in the quarter. UAlbany had gone 0-9 in the last 5:43, and Maine was scoreless for the past 3:15. The Black Bears scored with 34 seconds remaining to take a 16-4 lead, before redshirt-junior Bose Aiyalogbe finally broke UAlbany’s scoring drought 14 seconds later.
Maine led 16-6 at the end of the first quarter. Three Black Bears had contributed four points each. Tate and junior Tiana-Jo Carter led UAlbany with two points apiece.
“There was no panic in our game after the first quarter,” said Coach Mac. “What we told them was ‘thank God the first quarter is over, now we can start to play basketball’. And that started with making our shots and capitalizing on our defensive stops.”
The Great Danes opened the second on a 6-0 run to cut the lead to four. After calling timeout, Maine scored to bring the lead back to six. It took UAlbany four minutes to exceed their first quarter points total.
Tate brought the game within two on a baseline jumper from the right side, in the midst of a four-minute scoring drought from Maine. Trpcic gave UAlbany its first lead of the night with three minutes remaining on a three from just right of center.
Redshirt-junior Jessica Féquière hit a three with eight seconds remaining to give UAlbany a five-point lead. After Maine hit two of three free throws with 0.3 seconds left, UAlbany held a halftime lead of 25-22, having outscored Maine 19-6 in the second quarter.
Tate led UAlbany with nine points, more than doubling the next highest scoring Great Danes, senior Cassandra Edwards and sophomore Heather Forster, who had scored four each. Edwards and Carter led the team with four rebounds each, and Trpcic led with three assists.
UAlbany led Maine 8-2 in points off of turnovers, 3-2 in second chance points, and 9-2 in bench points. The teams were tied 8-8 in points in the paint, and 0-0 in fast break points. Maine out-rebounded UAlbany 20-18 in the first half, but UAlbany had committed just six turnovers. Notably, where UAlbany nearly doubled its field goal percentage in the second quarter, Maine saw theirs nearly cut in half.
Senior Bailey Hixson opened the third quarter with a quick three pointer, kicking of a 10-2 run for the Great Danes. UAlbany stretched the lead to 15 with less than two minutes remaining in the quarter. After three, UAlbany led 49-34, doubling up Maine in the third 24-12.
Maine drew an and-one foul to start the fourth, and hit the ensuing free throw. Trpcic hit a three-pointer on the other end to earn back the three points. The next eight minutes played out fairly evenly, with UAlbany and Maine trading points. With 2:11 remaining, UAlbany held a 13-point, 63-50 lead.
When the clock finally expired, UAlbany sealed with win 66-50 to claim their sixth-consecutive America East title.
Tate led all scorers with 21 points. Trpcic added 15 and Forster had 10. Carter and Edwards each pulled down six rebounds, and Trpcic had six assists.
UAlbany outscored Maine 32-16 in points in the paint, 26-2 in points off of turnovers, and 27-4 in bench points. The teams tied 7-7 in second chance points and 2-2 in fast break points. UAlbany committed just 11 turnovers during the game, against 19 assists and 15 steals.
UAlbany now earns an automatic berth into its sixth straight NCAA Tournament, and will learn their first round opponent during the women’s selection show on Monday, March 13 at 7:00 p.m. on ESPN.