UNLV tournament was a mixed experience for UAlbany women’s basketball team

FILE - University at Albany's Helene Haegerstrand in December 2021.

FILE - University at Albany's Helene Haegerstrand in December 2021.

ALBANY – The UAlbany women’s basketball team’s trip to the UNLV Thanksgiving Tournament was planned, but …

“It was supposed to be a challenge with our whole team healthy,” UAlbany coach Colleen Mullen said before practice Tuesday. “Like, that was the point of scheduling that. That was a championship team, a veteran team going out to play in a really difficult environment three games in a row.”

It was made more difficult by the Great Danes still having some players unavailable due to injuries, and UAlbany went 0-3 in it, falling to 3-4 overall. It did, however, get senior forward Helene Haegerstrand back for the first time this season. She played an average of 17 minutes per game with 8.3 points and 2.3 rebounds.

And she should be part of the lineup when the Great Danes travel to play Canisius in a non-league contest Wednesday.

“It’s great, it’s so fun,” Haegerstrand said of returning to action. “I’ve been waiting so long. It was exciting getting back there quick.”

Mullen explained that Haegerstrand had only started practicing, without contact, last Monday, and with contact on Wednesday. By Friday, she was giving all she could against undefeated UNLV, which went on to win its tournament.

Mullen said playing her starters as much as she did came with a cost in the next two games, but that the experience, as a whole, can only help the team.

“We could barely get over halfcourt at the end of the [Stetson] game,” Mullen said, “and a big part of our game is pressing, right? So we pressed against UNLV, we pressed against ETSU, and by the time we got to Stetson at 9 a.m. the next day i,n the fourth quarter they scored 10 points in three minutes. That score wasn’t indicative of where the game was at that point.

“We just have to turn the tide right now and press the reset button because we’re a really good team, we’ve got really good players, and we’ll be OK,” Mullen added. “We just have to focus on executing what we know we’re capable of executing.”

“I think all this prep is for March,” senior guard Grace Heeps said. “We’re playing for the America East championship again. Using these games right now to make adjustments and fixes to our team’s game, as well as individuals’ games, when the conference hits.”

And though their return to games is still uncertain, UAlbany had a good sign at Tuesday’s practice, as injured players Lucia Decortes and Morgan Haney participated with contact.

As for Canisius, Mullen said she’d like to have a good post presence in the game, but admitted the team has struggled with that recently. Even more, she’d like a game filled with intangibles.

“Just the things that take no talent,” Mullen said. “Diving on loose balls, and boxing out, and crashing the boards and sprinting the floor. And the unselfish plays that don’t come up on a stat sheet like setting a screen, changing your pace, making the extra pass that’s, like, in somebody’s shooting pocket.”

Categories: -Sports-, College Sports, Sports, UAlbany

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