Most of the attention centered on University at Albany’s “twin towers,” but it was the Great Danes’ Double-R backcourt that stole the spotlight in the annual Albany Cup with Siena College Friday night.
Sarah Royals, who was the starting point guard a year ago, scored 21 points, grabbed six rebounds and registered six assists after splitting time at the point, at shooting guard and at small forward, while Maragarita Rosario, a backup a year ago and now the starting point guard, fired in 14 points to power the Great Danes to a 69-42 victory over the Saints at the Times Union Center.
It was the fourth straight win for UAlbany over Siena. The Saints still lead the series, 10-7.
Megan Craig, the Danes’ 6-foot-9 junior center, and 6-1 sophomore Shereesha Richards, last year’s America East Conference Co-Rookie of Year, are known as the “twin towers,” and they made an impact early, but it was the Danes’ backcourt that was the difference in the game. Craig scored four points, blocked four shots and had five rebounds, while Richards produced 13 points to go along with 12 rebounds and four blocks.
“Megan is a game-charger, but they paid a lot of attention to her tonight, and we knew that,” said UAlbany head coach Katie Abrahamson-Henderson. “I would love to keep both of them [Royals and Rosario] on the floor. Both are good ballhandlers. I think Sarah will move down to the three, sometimes.”
Royals said she is ready to assume more of a scoring role after averaging just five points a game during the Great Danes’ run to the America East Conference championship.
“If the first one goes, the second looks more open,” she said. “We definitely got off to a good start, and our defense helped start our offense.”
Siena struggled early, missing its first 13 shots from the field. UAlbany rolled out to a 13-0 lead, thanks to a pair of treys from Royals and another from Rosario. The Saints didn’t score a basket until Colonie High School graduate Tehresa Coles made a layup with 7:48 left in the first half.
“The first half got away from us, clearly,” said Siena head coach Ali Jaques. “This is definitely not indicative of all the work we’ve put in. We’ll be all right. I have a lot of fighters, like Tehresa. We’re much better than we showed.”
Jaques said the Saints, especially their upperclassmen, were nervous, and the game just got out of hand. Plus, it didn’t help that the Saints were playing their season opener against a team that has won back-to-back league championships.
“They’re a championship team, regardless of who is left and who they lost,” Jaques said of the Danes. “They understand how to build on a lead. When they smell blood, they keep playing hard.”
Coles admitted that she and the rest of her teammates felt jitters.
“This was a big game, and there are a lot of emotions in this game,” she said. “But we’re going to build on this game. It’s definitely frustrating as a local player to lose three games in a row in this series.”
Although the Danes dominated from start to finish, they were far from perfect, turning the ball over 28 times.
“I’m just glad this game is over,” said Abrahamson-Henderson. “It’s great to get this one under your belt. It was a good game, and we played hard. I liked what I saw from a lot of our different combinations. We missed too many layups, but we’ll work on that.”
Siena was led by Meghan Donohue with 13 points and six rebounds. Coles chipped in with 12 points.
The Danes held a 48-30 rebounding edge.
Royals 6-11 6-7 21, Richards 5-11 3-3 13, Craig 2-5 0-0 4, Rosario 6-9 1-2 14, Phillip 0-4 0-0 0, Coughlin 3-5 0-0 8, Tate 2-3 3-3 7, Saunders 1-1 0-0 2, Williams 0-4 0-0 0, Edwards 0-1 0-1 0. Totals: 25-54 13-16 69.
Sole Anglada 0-7 2-2 2, Donohue 5-10 3-4 13, Stewart 0-0 2-2 2, Cummings 0-6 0-0 0, Coles 6-9 0-1 12, Logan 2-8 0-1 5, Willingham 2-9 1-3 5, Kelly 1-4 1-2 3, Booth 0-8 0-1 0.
Totals: 16-61 9-16 42.
Halftime: UAlbany 43-15. Three-point goals: UAlbany 6-12 (Royals 3-5, Rosario 1-2, Coughlin 2-4, Tate 0-1), Siena 1-21 (Cummings 0-6, Coles 0-1, Logan 1-4, Willingham 0-3, Booth 0-7). Rebounds: UAlbany 48 (Richards 12), Siena 30 (Donohue 6). Personal fouls: UAlbany 19, Siena 18.