ALBANY — The three non-conference games the UAlbany women’s basketball program played in rapid succession to start its campaign did a lot to show the Great Danes what they’re capable of this season.
That is, both the good and the bad.
“It’s been a whirlwind,” UAlbany head coach Colleen Mullen said of her team’s first few games, “but an amazing learning experience for our staff and our players.”
Heading into Saturday’s 1 p.m. game at UMBC (0-2) to start America East Conference play, UAlbany (1-2) has registered a pair of double-digit defeats against mid-major squads, but also showed its potential with a road win against Seton Hall of the Big East Conference.
After UAlbany’s win at Seton Hall, which came in between its losses at Hofstra and Marist, Mullen credited her team’s ability to score that signature win to how well it executed its game plan for a full 40 minutes. The Great Danes struggled to stay to their plan in its games against Hofstra and Marist — which also were played on the road — but also had legitimate reasons as to why that was the case.
UAlbany’s game at Hofstra was its season opener, and extra mistakes were expected — especially for a team that had such a stop-and-start preseason.
Then, the Great Danes’ game at Marist was the third in five days, and Mullen said she could see the mental fatigue hitting her team.
“We couldn’t execute,” Mullen said, “because our brains weren’t functioning.”
Part of that fatigue, too, was physical, and that could be an issue this weekend for UAlbany as it embarks on a league season that will feature teams playing back-to-back games against the same team, at the same site, as a way to mitigate the effect of the novel coronavirus pandemic on the season. Three Great Danes are playing more than 30 minutes per game to this point, and sophomore Helene Haegerstrand described the need to play back-to-back games as “obviously rough” for the team.
“I’m just really happy that we can play right now,” Haegerstrand said.
Haegerstrand is UAlbany’s second-leading scorer at 13.3 points per game, while junior Ellen Hahne leads the Great Danes at 14.7. A transfer from Wake Forest, Hahne is UAlbany’s best defender as well as its leading scorer. After serving as a role player at Wake Forest, Hahne — a 5-foot-11 guard who played on Sweden national teams along with Haegerstrand prior to playing together at UAlbany — said she’s embracing leading the Great Danes.
“I want to have that role,” Hahne said.
UMBC started its season with losses to Morgan State and Mount St. Mary’s, and hasn’t played since Dec. 5. Two UMBC players are averaging double-digit scoring, led by Janee’a Summers at 14 points per game.
UMBC was picked to finish in a tie for fifth place with Binghamton in the America East’s preseason poll, while UAlbany was fourth.