UAlbany women’s basketball sets program-best defensive mark in win, now leads nation in scoring defense

University at Albany's Lilly Phillips, left, and Freja Werth put pressure on Hartford's Lya Farcy Saturday, February 5 , 2022.

University at Albany's Lilly Phillips, left, and Freja Werth put pressure on Hartford's Lya Farcy Saturday, February 5 , 2022.

ALBANY — To maintain its perfect home record and earn the win it coveted against Hartford, the Great Danes relied on what they do best.

That’s to limit their opponent’s scoring, and UAlbany did that better Saturday than it has all season — and, as a result, moved into the top spot nationally in terms of scoring defense in Division I women’s basketball.

“Our defensive effort was great. Everyone was really focused on the scout,” UAlbany senior center Lucia Decortes said after her team’s 53-24 win. “We just played really hard the whole game, so it was a really good team win.”

In a “revenge” game for the Great Danes against a club that snapped their season-high, seven-game winning streak earlier this season, UAlbany set a new program record for points allowed against a fellow Division I program. The season-low 24 points allowed also narrowly moved the Great Danes ahead of Georgia Tech in per-game scoring defense, pushing UAlbany from No. 2 in the country in that category to No. 1. For the campaign, UAlbany is allowing an average of 46.9 points per game.

UAlbany head coach Colleen Mullen joked after the win that she’d like to attribute “new defensive drills” she’s used in practices this season for her club’s increased defensive prowess, but said the credit belongs with the Great Danes on the court.

“It’s not me, it’s them,” Mullen said. “Players make plays.”

One of those plays that demonstrated the Great Danes’ defensive intensity and overall desire to make sure they split their regular-season series with Hartford was delivered from Ellen Hahne. With UAlbany ahead 27 points and less than four minutes left in the fourth quarter, Hahne created a loose ball with a deflection — then, the 5-foot-11 senior raced forward, dove past a Hartford player and swatted the ball forward to teammate Morgan Haney. A few seconds later, a jumper from Kayla Cooper provided the Great Danes a 29-point advantage, which was the team’s high for the game.

Cooper led UAlbany with 12 points and eight rebounds, and Freja Werth added 10 points off the bench. Decortes contributed seven points, 10 rebounds, five assists and four blocked shots, while Hahne and Lilly Phillips each produced eight points.

Saturday’s win was Hahne’s fifth game back after not playing for nearly a month due to health-and-safety protocols. UAlbany was a team-best, plus-31 points when Hahne was on the floor — and plays like the one Hahne made diving to the floor help show why the player is so important for the Great Danes.

“She does all the things that take no talent,” Mullen said.

The victory improved the Great Danes’ home record this season to 11-0, while UAlbany (9-2 America East, 16-6 overall) also avenged its three-point loss in mid-January to Hartford (2-6, 2-17). Head coach Melissa Hodgdon — whose club hadn’t played in more than a week — said she knew the Hawks were likely to get UAlbany’s best effort Saturday given their prior success against the Great Danes. Right away, Hodgdon said she sensed Saturday that UAlbany’s “energy was way different” than it had been when the teams previously played.

“I knew they were going to turn the page, and I knew they wouldn’t take us lightly today and they’d be very prepared,” said Hodgdon, whose club had started the season 0-13 before beating UAlbany on Jan. 17. “I knew it was going to be hard for us to score, [but] I didn’t think we would have this much trouble scoring.”

Hartford never scored Saturday more than eight points in a quarter. For the game, Hartford had two fewer turnovers than points scored and made 26.2% of its field-goal attempts.

Phillips said the Great Danes “talk about [defensive execution] all the time in practice.” On the season, UAlbany has allowed fewer than 50 points in 13 games this season, and the Great Danes are 12-1 in those contests.

“We just have to have a defensive focus and mindset,” Phillips said of the Great Danes. “Whenever we have good stops and plays on the defensive end, it leads to our good offense.”

UAlbany is in second place in the America East standings, but No. 1 Stony Brook (10-1, 19-2) is ineligible for the postseason since it is leaving the conference later this year to join the Colonial Athletic Association. Next up for the Great Danes is a road matchup Wednesday with Maine (7-3, 10-10), a club that’s directly behind them in the standings.

“It feels really good to be in this position, and what we just need to do is go one game at a time,” said Mullen, UAlbany’s fourth-year head coach. “Obviously, Maine is a big game for multiple reasons, but, most importantly, I’ve never beaten Maine since I’ve worked here. It’s a very hard place to play, and we have got to really be locked in [against] a team that continues to get better.”

Categories: College Sports, Sports, UAlbany


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