Finally healthy, UAlbany women’s basketball opens conference play with good win

University at Albany's Kayla Cooper handles the ball next to Vermont's Delaney Richason at Hudson Valley Community College on Thursday.

University at Albany's Kayla Cooper handles the ball next to Vermont's Delaney Richason at Hudson Valley Community College on Thursday.

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TROY – The UAlbany women’s basketball team got its wish for the holidays: good health and happiness.

The former came just in time for Thursday’s America East opener against Vermont at Hudson Valley Community College. It was the first time since the season started that UAlbany had everyone available, particularly among its core top eight players.

And if the Great Danes are honest, they’ll admit that if they had the health, happiness would follow. And it did in the form of a 60-46 victory before one of their better crowds this season.

UAlbany (1-0 America East, 7-8 overall) held the Catamounts to the fewest points they’ve scored this season.

“I said comparing our non-conference defense compared to other league opponents’ defense from the non-conference [games] is apples to oranges,” UAlbany coach Colleen Mullen said. “It’s different opponents, it’s different circumstances. What I want to base our defense on is how we defend conference opponents, and we want to hold every team under 55 points.”

UAlbany shot 8 of 11 from the field (72.7%) in the first quarter in building a 22-13 lead. The Great Danes also pounded the boards in the first half, shown best by a stretch in the second quarter. Ahead 31-17, Freja Werth grabbed two consecutive offensive rebounds, followed by a Kayla Cooper offensive rebound and ending in Werth scoring on her third offensive rebound in the sequence. That helped UAlbany take a 35-20 halftime lead.

Vermont (0-1, 8-5) counterpunched in the third quarter by shooting better than the Great Danes and outrebounding them. That cut UAlbany’s lead to 42-37 entering the fourth.

But then, UAlbany started the final quarter on an 8-0 run, thanks largely to Cooper, who continued to improve in her fourth game back from a season-starting injury. During the run, Cooper scored two points, had two assists and a defensive steal. She finished the game with seven points, nine rebounds and four assists.

“Coach reminded us our offense comes from our defense,” Cooper said of the timeout before the run. We got that stop and then we came down and executed on offense.”

In her first game back from health-and-safety protocol, Ellen Hahne led UAlbany’s offense with 16 points, to go along with eight rebounds.

Helene Haegerstrand added 13 points, while Morgan Haney scored 10.

The win was, at last, reminiscent of last season when UAlbany’s top eight players showed why they should get playing time. On Thursday, each of them played at least 15 minutes.

“I think we’re really sharing the ball, taking our time, looking at what we’re getting from the defense and just playing out of that,” Hahne said. “I thought we came out really aggressive. Also, how it starts with our defense. When we’re getting stops, our offense flows a lot better.”

“Not having a star is helpful, but…it’s like our team is a giant puzzle piece, and when one piece is missing, everyone feels disjointed,” Mullen said. “And I think you saw tonight we had everyone back and it wasn’t, like, ‘Oh, Kayla has to be at 100 percent for us to win.’”

UAlbany next plays at New Hampshire on Sunday.

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

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