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Dominant First Quarter Propels Women’s Basketball Over New Hampshire

By Christian Hince | January 31, 2024


University at Albany head coach Colleen Mullen was worried about a trap game Saturday (1/27), with her team riding the high of a major conference win over Maine. For 10 minutes that wasn’t the case, as the Great Danes led 21-2 in the opening moments of the second quarter, holding New Hampshire to 0-10 shooting through the first in front of a Broadview Center crowd of 1,349. However, this dominant start faltered, with full-court pressure, foul trouble, and injuries creating anxiety in UAlbany’s 54-46 victory, their 14th straight.


Kayla Cooper (#20) went 5-5 from the free throw line Saturday to restore UAlbany’s momentum in the fourth quarter.

Photo Credit: Brent Warzocha / UAlbany Athletics


“There was a huge emotional and mental relaxation after [we] beat Maine,” Mullen said. “I don't think I did a good job coaching the game.”


The Great Danes saw their 19-point lead shrink to 26-15 at halftime and 34-29 after the third quarter. They were outscored 27-15 across the two periods. New Hampshire’s press defense made it difficult for UAlbany to get past halfcourt, with them being called for two 10-second violations and turning the ball over 26 times across the game. The visiting Wildcats ended with 25 points from steals, and all of their first half scoring came off turnovers.


“We did practice our press offense, we just didn't execute them that well,” Mullen said. “I think we just have to get some more reps with that.”


All 10 players on the roster received minutes Saturday, something helpful on a day where the bench got shorter and shorter. Megan Huerter’s three 3-pointers were a big part of UAlbany’s fast start, however she finished with just that many after hobbling off the court with an ankle injury less than a minute before halftime. Icing and elevating in the second half, she was able to stand in the huddle during timeouts. 


Every post player- Deja Evans, Kayla Cooper, and Gabriella Falcão- recorded two fouls in the first half, with Evans committing another in the third quarter. Mullen calls the third quarter an “achilles heel” for UAlbany, and thinks foul trouble upheld this example on Saturday. 


“Deja was on the bench, Kayla was on the bench,” Mullens said.


The game’s most concerning moment came after victory was borderline assured however. UAlbany was up 46-34 with 3:24 left when the game and arena came to a standstill after a defensive stop ended with Lilly Phillips on the ground. A couple minutes later, the junior guard walked to the bench with assistance as Broadview applauded. Phillips’ fourth quarter 3-pointer against Maine was arguably the sealing moment during the prior game.


The Great Dane coaching staff wasn’t sure of the severity of each injury, but Kayla Cooper has faith in anybody who steps up. “We always have someone who's ready to come up whenever their name is called,” she said. “Obviously we don't want anybody injured but I have confidence in everyone on the team.”


Despite finishing with four fouls, Cooper single handedly put New Hampshire in fourth quarter foul trouble. New Hampshire’s Bella Stuart led all scorers with 15 on 4-9 shooting but finished with four fouls, while guard Clara Gomez fouled out. Cooper’s free-throw line presence helped her to a team-second 11 points, and she led UAlbany in rebounds with seven.


“I think when the game is in the line like that, I feel like that's where I am. I know my teammates can count on me, I know Coach can count on me, so I feel like I really lock in on those moments,” Cooper said.


Meanwhile, Helene Haegerstrand bounced back from a rough night against Maine to lead the Great Danes in scoring with 12, going 2-4 from three and 5-9 overall. “So far I’ve never felt like we're going to fail,” she said. “We all are so competitive and so locked in on the goals.”


UAlbany shot 43.6 percent on 39 attempts Saturday, and they advance to 18-2 overall and 7-0 in league. They finish their home stretch Thursday, against defending conference champion Vermont in a rematch of last year’s America East final. 


“We just gotta bring each other in tight huddles,” Haegerstrand said. “We're going to focus on the next one, stay together, doing our things and not focus on calls or plays.”

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