As statement games go, this one was loud and clear.
The game billed as a battle for first place in the America East Conference turned into nothing more than an exhibition of the Great Danes’ dominance, as the two-time defending University at Albany women’s basketball team crushed New Hampshire, 88-47, Thursday afternoon at SEFCU Arena.
More than 1,800 local students were invited to the annual UAlbany Education Day, and the energy in the building certainly helped the Great Danes totally dismantle what was supposed to be their main rival in the league.
“Twin Towers” Shereesha Richards, a 6-foot-1 sophomore forward, and 6-9 junior center Megan Craig combined for 44 points. The Great Danes not only held the Wildcats to just 27.3 percent shooting from the floor, but they also held a huge 44-24 edge on the boards.
Richards finished with 25 points, six rebounds and two steals in 32 minutes, while Craig added 19 points, seven rebounds and two blocked shots in 27 minutes. Senior Tammy Phillip added 12 rebounds, and sophomore guard Erin Coughlin came off the bench to score 10 points for the Great Danes, who improved to 6-0 in the conference and 16-3 overall.
UNH fell to 4-1 and 10-8.
“We wanted to set the tone very early,” said Phillip. “We wanted to put the pedal to the metal. Last year, when we beat them at their place, they thought it was a fluke. We wanted to show them what we could do.”
The Danes didn’t expect the game to be such a rout, but they didn’t mind one bit.
“We expected it to be close,” said Craig. “UNH was also undefeated in the league coming in, and we expected a hard fight. But we wanted to play our own game. I’m not really surprised we ended up winning by so much, though, because we pressed, we ran and jumped, and we didn’t let up.”
Craig said every team they face tries to defend the Great Danes’ post players differently.
“They all try new things every game, but we just adjust. We know they will keep on trying different ways to stop us,” she said. “But these kinds of games are fun, because our bench gets to play a lot.”
Richards, winner of the conference player of the week award eight times and the league leader in scoring and rebounding, didn’t mince words about what the rout meant to the Great Danes.
“This just shows that we’re going to win the championship again,” she said. “We know that we can’t relax, and we won’t take teams lightly. But we should win again.”
UAlbany scored the first six points of the game and soon took a 22-4 lead midway through the first half. The Danes’ defense forced seven quick UNH turnovers.
After grabbing a 46-20 halftime edge, UAlbany completely took control with an 11-0 run early in the second half. The Danes kept pulling away, even with their bench players playing big minutes.
“We talked a lot about our defense coming into this game,” said UAlbany head coach Katie Abrahamson-Henderson. “We wanted to take away their three-pointers and force them to shoot inside. We knew they were a good three-point shooting team, because they were down by 25 against Hartford and still came back to win.”
Abrahamson-Henderson stressed the little things in order to win big.
“We paid attention to detail,” she said. “We wanted to really concentrate on Kelsey Hogan, because she is their senior leader.”
Unlike her players, Abrahamson-Henderson didn’t exactly call this rout a statement game.
“We’re trying to aspire to something bigger,” she said. “It was more of a statement to where we are right now. We held them to just 15 total field goals because we paid attention to detail. Our players won’t get [overconfident] because our practices are harder than our games. I’ll give them [today] off, and then on Saturday, it’s all about the next game.”
NEW HAMPSHIRE (47)
Kilpatrick 1-9 2-2 4, Coia 4-10 2-2 10, Gaston 2-8 0-0 5, Belanger 1-6 2-2 5, Hogan 4-8 1-2 11, Rowan 0-0 0-0 0, Anderson 2-7 0-0 6, Frankenberger 0-5 4-4 4, Martenet 1-2 0-0 2. Totals: 15-55 11-12 47.
Richards 7-11 11-14 25, Craig 9-13 1-1 19, Rosario 2-6 2-2 7, Royals 3-6 2-4 8, Phillip 3-6 2-2 8, Coughlin 4-7 0-0 10, Tate 3-5 0-0 6, Fequiere 1-3 0-0 3, Saunders 0-0 0-0 0, Williams 0-0 0-0 0, Edwards 1-2 0-0 2. Totals: 33-59 18-23 88.
Halftime: UAlbany, 46-20. Three-point goals: UNH 6-15 (Gaston 1-2, Belanger 1-3, Hogan 2-3, Anderson 2-5, Frankenberger 0-2); UAlbany 4-8 (Rosario 1-2, Coughlin 2-3, Fequiere 1-3). Rebounds: UNH 24 (Belanger 7), UAlbany 44 (Phillip 12). Assists: UNH 7 (Kilpatrick 3), UAlbany 10 (Rosario 4). Total fouls: UNH 17, UAlbany 17. Attendance: 2,074.