Celebrating “Commitment to Education Day” with a rare weekday matinee, the University at Albany women’s basketball team thrilled more than 1,100 local elementary school students with another dominating effort Wednesday at SEFCU Arena.
The defending America East Conference champion Great Danes crushed the University of New Hampshire, 78-43, with precision passing, aggressive rebounding, torrid shooting and rugged defense.
It was a complete effort for the Great Danes on both ends of the court. UAlbany, now 4-0 in conference play and 13-3 overall, is rolling over league foes by an average of nearly 37 points per game, and there is no letup in sight.
“The screaming and yelling kids in the stands gave our kids energy,” joked UAlbany head coach Katie Abrahamson-Henderson. “We wanted to make a statement, and that’s to protect our home court.”
Abrahamson-Henderson wouldn’t go so far as to say this was her team’s best game of the season, but she couldn’t come up with many negatives after the Great Danes shot 52.5 percent from the floor, forced 21 turnovers, limited the Wildcats to just 24.4 percent shooting and outrebounded them, 45-25. UAlbany also registered 24 assists.
“I was very pleased with our seniors,” she said. “Someone told me a long time ago that seniors can be in or out. Our four seniors are all in. What’s happening is that Ebone [Henry] and Julie [Forster] are still our go-to players, but we also have so many other kids off the bench that it’s hard to guard us.”
Henry, a senior captain, scored 16 points and made three steals. She is 41 points away from becoming the program’s all-time leading scorer. Rainny Lesane scored 1,481 points from 1982 through 1986 when the Great Danes were at the NCAA Division III level.
“We still have a lot to improve on, but it was definitely a complete game in terms of our energy,” said Henry. “I’m really pleased, because we thought this game against New Hampshire was going to be a lot tougher. We were worried about being focused after we won our last game [a 61-38 win over Maine Saturday] by so many points.
“Everyone is confident, from our starters to our bench. That makes us a deadly team for the tourn-ament. We’re coming together at a crucial time.”
Senior Lindsey Lowrie tied Henry for scoring honors with 16 points on 5-for-7 shooting from the floor, including 5-for-6 from three-point range, while freshman Shereesha Richards came off the bench to score 12 points, grab 10 rebounds and make four steals in just 23 minutes.
Sophomore point guard Sarah Royals dished out 10 assists to tie the school’s single-game record at the Division I level.
“I thought we did a great job from one to 12,” said Royals. “There’s always room for improvement, but they can’t defend everyone on this team. The 10 assists is nice, but it was easy for me, especially with someone like Lindsey around. When she’s making five out of six threes, all I’ve got to do is pass her the ball. It was nothing fancy out there. My teammates made it happen.”
Royals echoed Henry’s thoughts about how the Great Danes are playing outstanding team basketball now that they are matching up against conference opponents.
“We’re playing with a lot of confidence and great team chemistry,” she said. “With all the kids from the schools watching us, we were really focused.”
Eleven of the 12 Great Danes who played in the game scored, and no UAlbany player logged more than 27 minutes. UAlbany led by as many as 38 (73-35) with 4:08 left, and after taking a 42-20 halftime advantage, led by more than 30 for most of the second half.
New Hampshire (1-3, 6-10) was led by Cari Reed with 11 points.
The Great Danes host perennial league power Hartford Saturday at 2.
NEW HAMPSHIRE (43)
Kilpatrick 0-6 6-6 6, Frame 1-5 2-4 4, Gaston 0-3 2-2 2, Belanger 2-9 4-7 8, Reed 4-9 2-2 11, Friel 0-4 3-5 3, Wells 1-1 0-0 3, Martenet 0-1 2-2 2, Spoto 2-3 0-0 4. Totals: 10-41 21-28 43.
Forster 4-9 0-0 8, Keya. Williams 3-3 0-0 6, Royals 1-3 1-4 3, Henry 6-12 3-5 16, Lowrie 5-7 1-2 16, Coughlin 0-1 0-0 0, Rosario 0-2 2-2 2, Phillip 2-4 0-1 4, Keyo. Williams 2-2 0-0 5, Richards 5-7 2-5 12, Craig 2-6 0-0 4, McVey 1-3 0-0 2. Totals: 31-59 9-19 78.
Halftime: UAlbany, 42-20. Three-point goals: UNH 2-13 (Gaston 0-2, Belanger 0-4, Reed, 1-3, Friel 0-3, Wells 1-1); UAlbany 7-15 (Forster 0-1, Royals 0-1, Henry 1-3, Lowrie 5-6, Coughlin 0-1, Rosario 0-2, Keyo. Williams 1-1). Rebounds: UNH 25 (Reed 6); UAlbany 45 (Richards 10). Assists: UNH 5 (Kilpatrick 2), UAlbany 24 (Royals 10). Personal fouls: UNH 19, UAlbany 24. Fouled out: Gaston. Officials: Fatou Cissoko-Stephens, Kevin Sparrock, Hillary Harwell.