For the first time in a long while, University at Albany’s Plan A wasn’t working.
Plan B was more than adequate.
Although all-time leading scorer Shereesha Richards was held to just six points on 1-for-8 shooting from the floor, junior guard Imani Tate picked up the slack with 27 points and nine rebounds to power the Great Danes to a 61-42 victory over Siena in the women’s version of the Albany Cup Saturday at Times Union Center.
It was the sixth straight win for the 7-2 Great Danes in the annual matchup between crosstown rivals.
UAlbany forced 27 Siena turnovers, including five shot-clock violations, and the Great Danes limited the youthful Saints to just 32.6 percent shooting from the floor.
“Clearly, Shereesha didn’t score a lot of points tonight, but other players stepped up,” said UAlbany head coach Katie Abrahamson-Henderson.
“They were doing the same thing a lot of teams do to me, doubling me in the post,” said Richards. “So I passed the ball out. Their scoring takes the pressure off me.”
Tate, who was averaging more than 19 points per game entering this matchup, said she was comfortable taking the scoring lead.
“I’ve got to step up to the challenge when Shereesha is having trouble scoring,” Tate said. “Shereesha is our best player.”
UAlbany’s defense was the real star, as the Saints had difficulty not only getting off quality shots but also moving the ball past midcourt.
“I thought we did a good job of team defense. Our press in the halfcourt was really good,” Abrahamson-Henderson said. “We held them to only 42 points, and that was lower than our goal coming in.”
The Great Danes had a two-pronged defensive scheme. Their press frustrated Siena’s youthful backcourt, and then UAlbany also doubled Siena forwards Margot Hetzke and Meghan Donohue, who combined for just four points.
“We doubled Margot and Meghan every time they got the ball on the low block. Erin [Coughlin] came down to help every time,” Abrahamson-Henderson said.
“Plus, we knew she [Siena head coach Ali Jaques] had two freshmen point guards. It’s very hard playing an experienced team like ours with two freshmen in those roles.”
Jaques’ team had bounced back from a slow start this year by winning its last four games, but the Saints were overmatched against the four-time America East Conference defending champions.
“Albany is a really good team, and they are well-coached,” Jaques said. “Turnovers hurt us. We have a lot to learn, and we have a lot to improve on. Albany is a team that almost beat Duke last year and Tennessee this year. We are going to get better.”
Jaques’ game plan on Richards worked very well, but the other Great Danes, especially Tate, had too much firepower.
“Our game plan was to get her in foul trouble, and to get her out of the game,” Jaques said. “That’s what we did. But Imani Tate is really good, too. She got into some soft spots in our zone, and she kept making those pull-up jumpers.
“We are a young team that couldn’t respond to UAlbany’s runs.”
Although Richards had a tough scoring day, she had five assists and two steals before fouling out. Tiana-Jo Carter registered nine points and nine rebounds, and Zakiya Saunders contributed 12 points and four assists.
Siena (4-6) was paced by Kollyns Scarbrough with 13 points. Hetzke grabbed 10 rebounds.
Forster 2-3 0-0 4, Richards 1-8 4-6 6, Coughlin 1-5 0-0 3, Tate 11-16 5-8 27, Saunders 5-9 2-4 12, Aiyalogbe 0-1 0-0 0, Carter 4-9 1-2 9. Totals: 24-51 12-20 61.
Hetzke 0-4 2-2 2, Donohue 0-0 2-2 2, Petty-Evans 2-9 0-0 6, Scarbrough 5-10 1-2 13, Rawls 1-5 0-0 3, Benitez 3-8 0-0 8, Kelly 0-2 0-0 0, Gibson 1-1 0-0 2, Edoka 2-3 2-2 6, Severova 0-1 0-0 0. Totals: 14-43 7-8 42.
UAlbany 12 9 21 19 — 61
Siena 8 4 13 17 — 42
Three-point goals: UAlbany 1-6 (Richards 0-1, Coughlin 1-5); Siena 7-20 (Petty-Evans 2-7, Scarbrough 2-, Rawls 1-2, Benitez 2-5, Severova 0-1). Rebounds: UAlbany 33 (Tate 9, Carter 9); Siena 26 (Hetzke 10). Assists: UAlbany 15 (Richards 5), Siena 9 (Petty-Evans 2, Benitez 2, Kelly 2). Personal fouls: UAlbany 19, Siena 24. Fouled out: Richards, Donohue. Officials: Michael Schmidt, Warren Harding, Paulette Franklin. Attendance: 1,206.