UAlbany women’s basketball succumbs to Maine’s pressure in 49-45 loss

UAlbany's Lucia Decortes (13) looks for a shot against Maine's Maeve Carroll at SEFCU Arena on Wednesday night.

UAlbany's Lucia Decortes (13) looks for a shot against Maine's Maeve Carroll at SEFCU Arena on Wednesday night.

ALBANY — There was one valve wide open, but otherwise the pipeline was tightly closed everywhere else for the UAlbany women’s basketball team on Wednesday night.

And it was the Maine Black Bears applying the pressure to keep it bottled up.

Great Danes senior forward Lucia Decortes made 8 of 9 shots and scored a career-high 18 points inside, but otherwise Maine shut down UAlbany on the way to a 49-45 victory at SEFCU Arena in a pivotal game for America East Conference tournament seeding.

With just a home game against Stony Brook left in the regular season, UAlbany (12-5 AE, 19-9 overall) can no longer clinch the top seed, as Maine improved to 13-3 in the AE and 16-10 overall, with two games left against last-place UMBC. Stony Brook could win the regular-season championship, but is ineligible for the tournament because the program is leaving the conference after this season.

Undersized and undermanned Maine swept the two-game season series against UAlbany with a fullcourt press that fulfilled two goals, forcing turnovers (the Great Danes had 22) and chopping valuable seconds off the shot clock.

When UAlbany was able to set up shop in the halfcourt, Decortes dominated, and didn’t miss a shot until there was less than three minutes left in the game.

But the rest of the team was 11-for-40 from the field, after a flurry of later 3-pointers made the score close.

“They were able to pressure us so much, we really didn’t have much else to go to,” UAlbany head coach Colleen Mullen said. “So when you’re trying to pound the ball, pound the ball, pound the ball inside, you saw our turnovers trying to pound the ball inside. You can’t be a one-trick pony show.”

“They didn’t double me at first, which they did with Kayla [Cooper], which definitely affected her,” said Decortes, whose previous single-game career high was 14. “And [Maine’s] Maeve Carroll got in foul trouble, so it was easier for me to attack the basket.”

“We were under-manned and out-sized, and then Maeve getting in foul trouble was not part of our game plan,” Maine head coach Amy Vachon said with a laugh.

“But our fullcourt defense affected them. The biggest part is not  even getting the steals, but then you take 10, 15 seconds off the shot clock, so you don’t guard them in the halfcourt for 30 seconds. Because we just can’t. We don’t match up with them in the halfcourt.”

Anne Simon and freshman Paula Gallego each scored 13 points for the Black Bears, who were missing two players with the flu and used only one player off the bench.

Helene Haegerstrand scored 12 points for the Great Danes, including a 3-pointer with 42 seconds left to cut it to 45-39.

Grace Heeps hit two more 3-pointers for UAlbany in the closing moments, but UAlbany, which scored just 16 points in the first half, never cut the deficit to less than four.

“Offensively, we didn’t get to where we want to be,” Haegerstrand said. “We got a little sped up by their pressure. It hurt us that they were aggressive in the pressure, and we didn’t get to our spots quick enough, and then we got out of things.”

“Our young guards, Morgan [Haney] and Lilly [Phillips], really struggled,” Mullen said. “That point guard piece was just really tough.

“At times, they were playing five guards, which is why Lucia was able to have a really nice game for us inside, thankfully. But that all just took us out of whack offensively. Luckily, we did play a terrific game defensively. I was so happy with the adjustments we made from the last game.”

Maine has beaten UAlbany 11 straight times dating back to Jan. 13, 2018.

The Black Bears also were the first team to beat the Great Danes on their home court this season in 14 games at SEFCU.

If they meet again in the conference team, both would welcome the challenge.

“That would be awesome, to finally meet them again,” Decortes said. “It’s not easy to beat a team three times in a row, so that would be exciting. We would definitely have to fix our press offense and be more composed and take a deep breath on offense and execute our stuff.”

“Both teams knew what was at stake,” Mullen said. “For us, undefeated at home, and for seeding purposes … we don’t really talk about it, but the players do have an understanding. Maine’s a really good team, and none of the players on our team have beaten Maine before.”

“There was a lot on the line tonight,” Vachon said. “Both teams know it, both teams are trying to get high seeds and want to stay home as long as we can. That’s huge for our kids. Both teams are fighting for a lot, and it did feel different than a regular-season game.”

Categories: College Sports, Sports, UAlbany

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