Texas A and M ended University at Albany’s remarkable season, but not before the Great Danes showed a national television audience why it’s been a fun ride.
Third-seeded Texas A and M, the defending national champion, needed a 14-2 run early in the second half to break away from pesky Albany for a 69-47 victory in the first round of the NCAA women’s basketball tournament on Saturday night.
A and M, 23-10, advances to play Arkansas, 24-8, at 9:30 p.m. Monday, with the winner advancing to the Raleigh regional. Albany ends the season at 23-10, but the 14th-seeded Great Danes took the fight early to the Aggies who were playing before 6,407 fans at Reed Arena as the school hosted a tournament game for the first time in 18 years.
Albany, playing in its first NCAA tournament, never trailed by more than five points in the first half, but A and;M’s Adaora Elonu scored off the second-half tip to push the Aggies’ lead to 32-26. The Great Danes answered with three baskets, two of them putbacks, as undersized Albany had a 48-33 edge in rebounds, with 23 of them offensive.
But all that hard work inside was offset by 24 ballhandling miscues as A&M had a 29-14 scoring edge in points off turnovers. The Aggies converted a trio of steals into baskets to break the 32-32 tie, spurring a run that gave A&M a 46-34 lead with 13:55 seconds left. The Danes couldn’t get closer than 10 points.
“It’s hard for this team to let go because this has been such a Cinderella season for us,” Albany head coach Katie Abrahamson-Henderson said. “It’s been amazing. We won the America East Conference tournament and to get to the NCAA tournament.”
Albany was led by juniors Ebone Henry and Julie Forster. Henry, the two-time America East Conference Defensive Player of the Year, had 14 points and nine rebounds and played all 40 minutes. The 6-foot red-headed Forster, a second-team pick in the America East Conference, had eight points and a game-high 12 rebounds.
“We knew we were going to have to rebound to win this game,” Forster said.
The former walk-on had six offensive rebounds battling against A&M’s twin sophomore posts Karla Gilbert and Kelsey Bone, who are 6-5 and 6-4, respectively.
“Obviously, Julie is amazing,” Abrahamson-Henderson said. “She’s like a flying red cape with her hair just flying through the air.”
Albany also got nine points and seven rebounds from 6-8 freshman Megan Craig, who started for only the second time. She was one of five Great Danes with at least five rebounds.
“They brought the fight to us,” A&M head coach Gary Blair said. “They were the better team in the first half.”
A&M, making its seventh straight NCAA tourney appearance, had won its last four first-round games by an average of 36.3 points.
Albany gave A&M fits for the first 20 minutes as Henry scored 10 points with the Great Danes winning most of the loose balls.
“We’re winners,” Abrahamson-Henderson said. “It doesn’t matter what happened. The first thing I said to them was, ‘Get your heads up because you guys are winners. No matter what, we are going to go back and have some banners in our gym for the first time ever.’ ”
Callaway 1-10 0-1 2, Henry 6-21 0-1 14, Forster 3-11 2-4 8, Jones 1-7 2-4 4, Craig
4-5 1-3 9, Royals 3-5 0-1 7, Lowrie 0-0 0-0 0,
Cronin 0-0 0-0 0, Williams 0-0 0-0 0, Makopondo 1-1 1-2 3. Totals 19-60 6-16 47.
TEXAS A andM (69)
Bone 3-8 0-2 6, Carter 2-8 0-1 5, Standish 4-7 0-0 12, White 8-13 1-1 18, Elonu 6-13
1-3 13, Bellock 1-1 0-0 3, Windham 1-1 0-0 2, Grant 1-1 0-0 2, Collins 0-0 2-4 2, Pratcher 0-1 3-5 3, Gilbert 1-4 1-2 3, Assarian 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 27-58 8-18 69.
Halftime—Texas A&M 30-26. 3-Point Goals—Albany 3-10 (Henry 2-8, Royals 1-1, Jones 0-1), Texas A&M 7-12 (Standish 4-6, White 1-1, Bellock 1-1, Carter 1-3, Pratcher 0-1). Fouled Out—Forster. Rebounds—Albany 48 (Forster 12), Texas A&M 33 (White 7). Assists—Albany 8 (Callaway 3), Texas A&M 13 (Bone 4). Total Fouls—Albany 19, Texas A&M 15. A—6,407.
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Categories: College Sports