By Christian Hince | March 9, 2023
The Great Danes celebrate
Photo credit: Kathleen Hellman (UAlbany Athletics)
On Sunday, the University at Albany women’s basketball team defeated Maine 72-64 for their second-highest scoring performance of the season and an America East championship spot for the second year in a row.
The visiting Black Bears finish the season at 11-5 in conference and 16-14 overall. UAlbany shot an astounding 61.7% from the field, going 5-8 from three. Guard Morgan Haney was the only Great Dane to shoot below 50% at 3-7, although she made both attempts from behind the arc. While this offensive onslaught challenged Maine, who trailed 51-41 late in the third quarter, the Black Bears never went away.
With just over six minutes left in the game, a difficult stepback layup from prolific Maine forward Adrianna Smith tied it at 57 and capped off an 8-0 run. On the other end though was UAlbany star Kayla Cooper, with a short but physical jumper over Smith. The first team all-conference guard led the Great Danes with 23 points on 11-18 shooting. “We were really just trying to go to the well with making them have to defend us with not having that much size,” UAlbany head coach Colleen Mullen said of Cooper’s success in the paint.
Cooper's bucket was quickly answered by guard Anne Simon on a falling layup as the shot clock expired. Despite missing 18 games this season with a sprained ankle, including both earlier matchups against UAlbany, the 2021-22 America East player of the year put on a show with 23 points on 10-17 from the field. “To see Anne really battle back to join her team at the end was really inspirational, and I think she just did a tremendous job for us,” Maine head coach Amy Vachon said.
Despite two-point buckets from UAlbany on their next three possessions, including a pullup jumper from Great Dane all-conference forward Helene Haegerstrand, Smith had an answer each time, scoring five in a row for Maine. Despite missing the entire second quarter with two early fouls, the America East player of the year and leading scorer put on a strong showing with 19 points on 8-18 shooting, adding 8 rebounds.
With Smith’s bucket, UAlbany led 65-64 with 2:44 remaining. Then Great Dane guard Ellen Hahne, who spent much of the afternoon sharing defensive responsibility with Cooper against Maine’s two stars, drained a three.
Down two possessions, the Black Bears failed to take advantage of defensive stops and their multiple second-chance scoring opportunities with UAlbany dribbling out the clock on the other side of the court. After Cooper rebounded a 3-point miss from Maine guard Sera Hodgson at 35.2, a Mullen timeout put the ball on UAlbany’s side of the court. A trio of quick Maine fouls off inbounds sent Haegerstrand to the line where she made both. She finished with 13 points and 7 rebounds.
Maine’s next possession ended scoreless too after an awkward jumper miss from Caroline Bornemann. With Haney fouled at 9.7, the celebration began, and then exploded with her team rushing the court as the buzzer expired seconds later.
UAlbany led after every quarter, and consistently had momentum with a pre-buzzer three from Haney in the first, with similar timing for guard Fatima Lee with a three-pointer and a deep jumper as the second and third ended. “We trust her to have the ball in that situation and take those shots,” Hahne said. “She's making those in practice.” Lee finished 3-4 on the day with a 2-3 mark from three.
Next, the Great Danes head to Vermont for the conference championship, where they lost 53-49 last month. “We didn't like how the last game ended with Vermont, we definitely felt like there's things that we could do, and that we could do better,” Cooper said.
UAlbany will try to return to March Madness when they play the #1 seeded Catamounts at 5 p.m. Friday.