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Danes debut is a winner-TU


The End Zone

Albany's Defense Stymies Hawks Again


March 12, 2004

By WOODY ANDERSON, Courant Staff Writer


Hartford freshman Ikea Witt was trying to bust into Albany's 2-3 zone and create some trouble. Trouble was, it wasn't enough. Against Albany's zone, it was never enough for Hartford this season.


Fourth-seeded Albany shot 43.9 percent (18-for-41) and survived a Hartford comeback Thursday night for a 52-50 victory in front of 1,508 in the quarterfinals of the America East tournament at Chase Family Arena.


It is Albany's first postseason victory since joining Division I five years ago.


No.5 seed Hartford (18-12) lost nine of its last 11 games. Three of the losses were to Albany. And in all three the Hawks shot under 30 percent. On Thursday, the Hawks hit bottom. They went 8:02 without a field goal and finished with 25.5 percent shooting (12-for-47) which tied tournament records for lowest percentage and fewest field goals. The Hawks made only five field goals in the second half, when they shot 18.5 percent (5-for-27).


"We tried to penetrate the zone and get the ball into the post," Witt said. "And knock down some shots."


The Great Danes led 47-41 with 5:10 remaining. But Liz Stich hit a three-pointer with 2:45 left to make it 49-46, the Hawks' first basket since Jessica Clark's layup with 10:53 to play.


But Stich came up short on her next three shots. In the final 16 seconds, Albany made three free throws and the Hawks' Erika Messam one. Stich made a three at the buzzer.


"Albany is tough to play because of their balance," Hawks coach Jen Rizzotti said. "You can't key on one player."


Although Albany center Danielle Hutcheson fouled out with four points, Alicia Learn took over the scoring load with a game-high 19 points.


Trailing 26-23 at halftime, the Great Danes began the second half with a 13-1 run that gave them a 36-27 lead. The Hawks never led after that.


"We came out flat in the second half, we kind of zoned out," Rizzotti said. "We have to show a little bit more maturity. Next year we'll have more upperclassmen."


Stich led the Hawks with 14 points (4-for-12 from the field, including three threes). Witt had 11 points, nine on free throws


The Hawks' halftime lead - their largest to that point - came on Danielle Wexler's second three with 1:58 remaining. That came in between two Albany shot-clock violations the Hawks forced with their man-to-man defense. Albany's last five possessions of the half ended in turnovers.


The Hawks, who led the conference in scoring defense (56.4 a game), made it tough on the Great Danes.


"They switched on screens and doubled on Hutcheson," Albany coach Trina Patterson said. "We showed confidence, character and chemistry."

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