ALBANY — This season, the shots just haven’t fallen for Grace Heeps as often she’d like them to drop.
That is, until Sunday.
The sophomore on the UAlbany women’s basketball team delivered what head coach Colleen Mullen called a “breakout game,” and it was a necessary one in order for the Great Danes to secure a weekend America East Conference sweep of visiting New Hampshire at SEFCU Arena. In Sunday’s 63-50 win, Heeps scored a career-high 17 points and made a trio of big shots — all from 3-point territory — during the crucial stretch of the fourth quarter that saw the Great Danes seize control.
“That gives me confidence going forward,” Heeps said during a post-game teleconference.
UAlbany (3-3, 4-6) controlled most of Sunday’s game, but New Hampshire (4-9, 4-11) moved ahead in the fourth quarter.
Then, Heeps got going.
The sophomore from East Greenbush made the first of her fourth-quarter 3s to put UAlbany ahead 49-48 midway through the period. Then, after New Hampshire pushed back ahead, Heeps tossed in another 3 to give UAlbany a 52-50 lead. After a few scoreless minutes, Heeps again made a shot from downtown to give the Great Danes a multiple-possession advantage they never relinquished in a game that ended with a 14-0 UAlbany run.
“She’s a really talented player,” Mullen said of Heeps, who played last season at UMass. “We feel very lucky to have her here.”
Heeps was averaging 3.9 points per game and had made 27.9% of her shots heading into Sunday’s game. The 5-foot-11 starting guard made 6 of 9 shots on Sunday, including 5 of 7 from 3-point territory, in 33 minutes.
New Hampshire head coach Kelsey Hogan said her team “needed to challenge someone else to step up” for the Great Danes in the fourth quarter.
“And,” Hogan said of Heeps, “she did.”
That didn’t necessarily surprise Hogan, who was familiar with Heeps from the recruiting scene.
“She’s a dynamic player and she can really shoot the ball — and she’s a high IQ player,” Hogan said. “So I knew it was only a matter of time.”
UAlbany had defeated New Hampshire 59-47 in the teams’ Saturday matchup. That victory snapped a four-game losing streak for UAlbany.
New Hampshire freshman Bella Stuart, a Shenendehowa High School graduate, had three points in a dozen minutes of action in Saturday’s game. Stuart was scoreless in six minutes on Sunday.
Senior Amanda Torres had a game-high 19 points Sunday for New Hampshire. For UAlbany, junior Ellen Hahne contributed 18 points, nine rebounds and six assists, while senior Kyara Frames added 10 points.
UAlbany led for 94% of Sunday’s game. Still, the Great Danes needed to make their run in the fourth quarter to secure the win.
“We’re thrilled to get the sweep,” Mullen said.
UAlbany is scheduled to play at UMass Lowell next weekend. On Sunday, which saw the Vermont women’s basketball program announce it was canceling the rest of its season because of concerns related to the pandemic, the America East announced it had largely scrapped the remainder of its previously announced schedule for the 2020-21 season. Instead, the league will begin scheduling games “in two-week increments for the rest of the season . . . in order to maximize scheduling flexibility in order to best position programs in light of COVID-19 issues.”
Mullen said it was “sad” to see an America East team cancel its season, but said she respected the decision in light of the “extremely challenging” season teams are attempting to play. After Sunday’s game, Mullen said she addressed Vermont’s decision with her players, and used it as a way to remind them to embrace each day they get to play.
“Just to be grateful and be where your feet are,” Mullen said was her message.