UAlbany women confident in WNIT

The UAlbany women’s basketball team, off a win over Big Ten power Penn State, takes on Western Kentu

Championship time is usually reserved for the end of the college basketball season, not the beginning.

The UAlbany women’s basketball team could care less. The 2-0 Great Danes, fresh off the program’s first-ever victory over a Power Five conference with a 54-53 win over three-time defending Big Ten regular-season champion Penn State Sunday night, takes on Western Kentucky in the semifinal of the Preseason Women’s NIT tonight at 8.

The winner advances to Sunday’s championship game at 3 to face the winner of the West Virginia-Mississippi State semifinal. The game will be televised on the CBS Sports Network.

UAlbany is used to winning championships, having captured the last three America East Conference titles, but this event is a little bit different, mostly because of the timing so early in the season, the caliber of teams in the field and the great publicity the program is getting.

“We want to make a statement,” said senior guard Sarah Royals. “Coach Abe has built this program up over the last couple of years. She keeps us focused, and she stresses that these games matter. It will have an effect on us in the long run.”

Royals said the Great Danes have gotten to the point where they believe they can beat just about everybody on their schedule.

“We don’t care who we play. There is no fear,” she said. “Western Kentucky is a lot like us. In fact, we might be bigger than they are.”

Junior forward Shareesha Richards, the reigning America East Player of the Year, poured in 27 points and grabbed 14 rebounds against the Nittany Lions after scoring just 10 in the Danes’ season opener against St. Francis Brooklyn. She collected her 1,000th career point against the Nittany Lions.

“I didn’t even know I had 1,000 points in that game, but beating Penn State is a lot more important to me,” she said. “We almost beat West Virginia and North Carolina the last couple of years, but this time, we finally got it done. I’m sure a lot of these teams are saying they are only playing Albany, so it’s no big deal, but for us, we know we put the uniforms on the same way the big programs do.”

UAlbany head coach Katie Abrahamson-Henderson didn’t pull any punches when she told her team to be prepared early this season for some extremely tough competition.

“Beating Penn State was a tremendous accomplishment, and something they’ve worked toward for a long time. A lot of our players, especially players like Sarah Royals and Maragarita Rosario, have wanted to beat a big-level school,” she said. “We beat a powerhouse the other night. That’s why we get our players in shape early on.”

Abrahamson-Henderson said she is not surprised with how her Danes have handled competing in the Preseason WNIT.

“I’ve tried to empower my players as women so they don’t fear anything,” she said. “Our players don’t want to miss another opportunity, so I know they will be ready for Western Kentucky.”

Westen Kentucky, coming off a 79-78 overtime win over Colorado, is paced by Chastity Gooch, who scored 30 points and grabbed 11 rebounds in that game. She is averaging 22 ppg for the 2-0 Lady Toppers.

Categories: College Sports

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