Hartford hadn’t won.
UAlbany hadn’t lost in more than a month.
Both things changed with the outcome of Monday afternoon’s America East Conference women’s basketball game at Chase Arena in West Hartford, Connecticut.
“It was just one of those days,” UAlbany head coach Colleen Mullen said in a postgame interview with The Daily Gazette, “where it was not our day.”
Perhaps no play better demonstrated that in Hartford’s 52-49 win than the one that erased the Great Danes’ final lead of the game. With UAlbany leading 45-42, Hartford’s Lya Farcy sent a pass from the perimeter toward two teammates at the basket, and the ball found neither of them; instead, it dropped through the rim for a tie game.
“As a coach, you just have to shrug your shoulders there,” Mullen said following her club’s first loss since a Dec. 8 game at Vanderbilt of the SEC.
On the next offensive possession for Hartford (1-2 America East, 1-13 overall), Carmen Villalobos made a 3-pointer — on purpose — to complete an 8-0 Hawks run that put them in front for good. UAlbany (3-1, 10-5) had multiple opportunities to go ahead or tie the game in the final minutes, but the Great Danes didn’t score at all in the contest’s last four minutes.
UAlbany had carried a seven-game winning streak into the game, the program’s longest sustained stretch of success since the Great Danes won eight games in a row during the 2017-18 campaign. The defeat pushed the Great Danes from first place to third, a half-game back of both NJIT and Stony Brook in the America East standings.
Playing again without regular starters Lucia Decortes (concussion) and Ellen Hahne (COVID protocols), UAlbany received a game-high 22 points from Kayla Cooper. A bench player until Hahne’s absence started several games ago, Cooper was named Monday the America East Player of the Week, and the 6-foot-0 forward delivered another standout performance against the Hawks. In addition to her 22 points, Cooper had four rebounds, three assists and two steals.
Helene Haegerstrand registered 11 points and Freja Werth contributed nine, but no other Great Dane scored more than three. For Hartford, Paula Maurina produced 18 points and eight rebounds, and Farcy had 13 points and seven rebounds.
With a 30-27 advantage, Hartford earned its first halftime lead of the season. Playing its third game in six days, UAlbany seemed to right itself in the third quarter with a 14-6 stanza that left the Great Danes ahead 41-36 going into the last period.
“But we gave up 16 points in the fourth quarter and we weren’t scoring,” said Mullen, whose club entered Monday’s with the second-best mark in scoring defense in the country at 48.5 points per game.
Hartford found enough offense in the final quarter, while UAlbany struggled. The Great Danes only made three shots from the field in the fourth quarter, which saw them miss 10 and their final five.
After Hartford moved ahead 52-49 with 90 seconds to go, the Hawks didn’t score again — but the Great Danes could not capitalize. UAlbany’s final possessions included a missed shot from Cooper, a Werth turnover and a missed 3-pointer from Werth in the game’s final seconds.
UAlbany collected an offensive rebound after Werth’s miss, but Morgan Haney was unable to get one last shot off before the final buzzer sounded to end the Great Danes’ winning streak.
“Nothing was clean and sharp for us, which it had been,” Mullen said following a performance from her team that included 15 turnovers and 25% shooting from 3-point territory.
While Monday’s contest was the Great Danes’ third game in six days, Hartford had not played since Jan. 5. In between its 21-point loss to Maine and its win against UAlbany, the Hawks had three games postponed due to health-and-safety protocols related to the novel coronavirus pandemic.
UAlbany next plays Wednesday against UMBC in an 11 a.m. home game at SEFCU Arena. In the practice the Great Danes get between their first conference loss and their next game, Mullen said tightening the team’s defense and bettering the club’s ball movement on offense will be areas of focus.
“We need to get back to playing UAlbany basketball,” Mullen said.