By Christian Hince | February 15, 2023
In a game they led almost all the way through, the University at Albany women’s basketball team played their finest minutes when it mattered in a 10-point overtime victory over Binghamton on Saturday.
Both teams readying for tip-off.
Photo credit: Christian Hince / The ASP
With the result, the Great Danes moved to 17-10 overall and first in the America East Conference with an 11-2 conference record, while the visiting Bearcats fell to 13-12 overall and 6-6 in conference play. The victory also marked UAlbany’s seventh straight win at home this season.
Binghamton came into the afternoon shorthanded, with junior guard Denai Bowman, their leading scorer with 12.6 points per game, sidelined due to injury.
UAlbany started fast, as a three from forward Helene Haegerstrand at just over two minutes in put the Great Danes up 7-0. UAlbany would not run away with it though, with Binghamton guard Clare Traeger cutting the deficit to 9-7 with a layup at the 5:12 mark of the opening quarter. While UAlbany led the entire period, Binghamton kept it close, down 14-12 at the quarter’s end.
UAlbany opened the second quarter with little offensive rhythm, missing their first eight shots from the field. This opened the door for Binghamton to take their first lead at the 4:26 mark on a paint jumper from guard Meghan Casey, making the score 16-15. The Great Danes responded quickly, with Haegerstrand retaking the lead on the following possession with a deep two and guard Grace Heeps draining a three on an assist from fellow guard Ellen Hahne.
Heeps also made her mark on the defensive end against Bearcat guard Ella Wanzer, holding the 42.7% 3-point shooter to 1-7 from the field with neither of her attempts from beyond the arc hitting.
Meanwhile, UAlbany’s rhythm from deep continued to their final possession of the half with a Haegerstrand triple that put them up 26-20 with 33 seconds left, before a buzzer-beater jumper from Casey ended the half.
Going back and forth in the third, Binghamton rattled off a six-point lead to take their second lead at 32-30 with just over five minutes left, to which UAlbany coach Colleen Mullen called a timeout. Out of the break, the Great Danes scored the next seven, maintaining a 39-34 at the end of three.
Binghamton opened the final quarter scoring the first four, but an 8-2 Albany run backed by two triples from Heeps to bring the deficit back to 47-40 with just over five minutes left. These final minutes of regulation were made urgent though by Denai Brown’s replacement, Jadyn Weltz.
Coming into the quarter 1-10 from the field with 4 points, from this point she scored 6 of the Bearcats’ next 10 with a double from the field and free-throw buckets off three fouls, bringing the score to 51-50 at just over a minute left.
After a time-chewing UAlbany possession ended with a missed layup by Heeps and a Binghamton timeout at 13 seconds left, a right-side hooking layup from Weltz gave the Bearcats their third lead of the game with just 5.4 remaining.
Out of a Coach Mullen timeout, guard Fatima Lee inbounded to fellow guard Kayla Cooper whose underhoop layup missed as the buzzer rang, but not before a foul whistle. With a second added to the clock, Cooper made her first before missing her second, sending the game to overtime.
With Haegerstrand playing less than a minute in the period due to her fifth foul, reserve forward Lucia Decortes commanded the paint in her absence. After scoring the first overtime basket, her two blocks coupled with more clutch free throw shooting from Cooper to give the Great Danes a 60-53 lead with under a minute left. After a few more UAlbany free throws, a final of 63-53 capped a dominated overtime period which didn’t see a single field goal from Binghamton.
Cooper led scoring with 17 points on 6-12 shooting and 5-8 from the line, as well as rebounding with nine boards total. Haegerstrand shortly followed with 16 points on 3-5 from three and 5-9 from the field, while Decortes’ four blocks marked an impressive defensive performance off the bench. “I feel like it’s important to remember that defense wins games, and [it] doesn’t take talent to play good defense,” Decortes said after the game.
“This was a game that we really needed to have,” said Coach Mullen of the down-to-the-wire victory. “Certainly after losing a very close game to Maine, losing a very close game to Vermont, not having that win when the game was on the line.”
Despite losing, Binghamton coach Bethann Shapiro-Ord was proud of her squad’s performance. “The first quarter was a little shaky but after that, we played well,” she said. “We are disappointed that we didn't finish it in overtime but what a battle tonight.”
The Great Danes will resume play Wednesday when they visit the UMBC Retrievers, who sit at 9-4 in America East play.