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2022 NCAA D I WBB TOURNAMENT Friday, March 18 6:00 PM Louisville, KY UAlbany Great Danes at Louisville Cardinals


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From today's Times - Union:

WOMEN’S BASKETBALL

Homegrown players fortifying Great Danes

Cambridge’s Phillips, Columbia’s Heeps part of NCAA Tourney team

 

By Abigail Rubel

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Paul Buckowski / Times Union

UAlbany women’s basketball team members Lilly Phillips of Greenwich, center left, and Abby Ray of Saratoga Springs, center right, walk to their bus to head to the Women’s NCAA Basketball Tournament.

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Photos by Paul Buckowski / Times Union

Members of the UAlbany women’s basketball team are cheered on as they walk out to their bus to leave campus on Wednesday in Albany. The team is taking on first-seed Louisville in the Women’s NCAA Basketball Tournament.

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Meanwhile, at right, Colleen Mullen, the head coach of UAlbany women’s basketball team, waves to supporters as she walks to the team bus.

Every crowd that came to watch the University at Albany women’s basketball team at SEFCU Arena this season featured at least one fan in the distinctive orange of Cambridge High School.

They came to watch UAlbany freshman Lilly Phillips, formerly of Cambridge, start at point guard for a Great Danes team that earned a trip to the NCAA Tournament.

“The support all season has been amazing. I’ve had so many people text me after the games saying that they were there,” Phillips said.

UAlbany, the No. 16 seed, plays No. 1 Louisville at 6 p.m. Friday.

Phillips won one state championship in 2019 and might have won more had the COVID-19 pandemic not upended the 2020 and 2021 seasons.

Going from Cambridge to the NCAAs, “it’s a dream,” Phillips said. “It’s sometimes hard to wrap my head around it, just because of how crazy it sounds.”

She didn’t play point guard in high school, but with the departure of Kyara Frames over the summer and redshirt sophomore Morgan Haney still rehabbing from injury, UAlbany coach Colleen Mullen needed someone to fill those shoes.

“She just embraced the role,” Mullen said. “And then she just kept getting better and better.”

The 5-foot-11 Phillips averaged 4.1 points and had 71 assists this season, tied with Haney for the team high, and 28 steals.

“We’re very proud of how hard she worked and how she handled the point guard responsibilities to the best of her ability,” father Bob Phillips, who coached Lilly and sister Sophie Phillips at Cambridge, said. “Even with that, there were some ups and downs.”

“You have to take the bumps and bruises with a freshman,” Mullen said. But Phillips’ calm, steady demeanor and what Mullen called her “coachability” led to consistent improvement.

UAlbany’s journey to March Madness had some ups and downs of its own.

After starting 3-0 in the America East despite a COVID-19 pause that delayed the start of their conference schedule, UAlbany lost at Hartford, then 0-13. They also lost to rivals Stony Brook and Vermont on the road and were swept by regular-season champion Maine.

Throughout, though, UAlbany remained nearly unbeatable at SEFCU Arena, losing just one game all season to Maine. The Great Danes’ stifling defense allowed the second fewest points in the country (48.6), and they finished the regular season by rallying from a 16-point deficit in the fourth quarter against Stony Brook to clinch the No. 2 seed in the America East Tournament.

After beating New Hampshire and Vermont in the first two rounds of the tournament, UAlbany got revenge on the Black Bears. The team raced out to a 20-12 lead in the first quarter and never trailed, thanks in part to a 20-point performance from Haney.

Phillips and the Great Danes have been the regular subject of water-cooler chat in Cambridge, a town of just more than 2,000, all season.

“We’re such a little town and, you know, to see her have that success, there’s been a lot of Cambridge people that were fans of hers in high school that on a pretty regular basis have made the trek down to watch home games,” Bob Phillips said.

“Everyone is super jacked about seeing her play in the tournament,” Cambridge athletic director Adam Burr said. “Everybody is rooting for UAlbany.”

One of Phillips’ biggest fans is Sophie Phillips, whose University of Rhode Island team finished 22-6 and will play in the WNIT.

“It was really fun, honestly, just to see their growth as a team throughout the whole season,” Sophie Phillips said, although she added, “It’s weird to watch each other instead of playing with each other.”

Phillips isn’t the only one with a local support system.

East Greenbush’s Grace Heeps, who went to Columbia High School until her junior year, transferred to UAlbany to be closer to home after a year at UMass. Heeps averaged 4.4 points a game, shooting 32.1 percent overall and 33.6 percent from 3. She also had 32 steals, fourth on the team. She’s heard from high school, AAU and UMass teammates in the past few days.

“It’s so great to have such a supportive system so close,” Heeps said. “Not a lot of people get this opportunity, especially from a mid-major college … I feel like everyone’s reaching out because it’s like, wow, that’s so incredible.”

 Abigail.Rubel@- timesunion.com A @abigail_rubel

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I can see everyone was excited about this game. They fought hard and didn’t get embarrassed. Louisville is really good. Congratulations on a great season!

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No, not embarrassed. Lots of effort, great helpful experience for next year, but as usual, lots of turnovers. You expect some of them against a powerhouse like Louisville, but still too many. I won’t let that get in the way though of a great effort. I’m proud of our ladies and am already looking forward to watching them next year, after an off-season that may or may not include roster changes. We do need some height up front. I think they have a good chance of doing this all again next year and the year after, with this roster and possibly a few impact recruits. If we do repeat we state our case for something other than a 16 seed. Getting ahead of myself here, I realize, but this team, and this coaching staff, have me very excited for the future. It’s been a great season—-THANK YOU, LADY DANES!

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Well.....a few thoughts on the game. For a very brief, glorious moment, early 2cd quarter, we got to within 21-16, and I thought maybe, just maybe, something amazing was going to happen. But after a 27-4 Louisville run, reality set in. We actually won the 3rd qtr. 18-17, and lost the 2cd half by only 4, 35-31. 2cd quarter killed us. Total of 26 turnovers. Having said all this, it was a lot of fun and very exciting watching our team on the big stage.  Here’s hoping we can do it again next year, with a different ending.

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6 hours ago, tnehurley said:

Well.....a few thoughts on the game. For a very brief, glorious moment, early 2cd quarter, we got to within 21-16, and I thought maybe, just maybe, something amazing was going to happen. But after a 27-4 Louisville run, reality set in. We actually won the 3rd qtr. 18-17, and lost the 2cd half by only 4, 35-31. 2cd quarter killed us. Total of 26 turnovers. Having said all this, it was a lot of fun and very exciting watching our team on the big stage.  Here’s hoping we can do it again next year, with a different ending.

Yes, we will return to the NCAA Tournament next year with a different result ..... everyone is back .... hopefully the Coach Colleen Mullen stays with us a couple more years.

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Ouch——sorry to hear about the bus incident. Some more thoughts on THE GAME: although I thought the 2 TV announcers went overboard on Louisville’s greatness, they did pay the proper amount of respect to UA. Good job there. Loved the story on our 3 Swedish players talking in their native language during games and practice, and other players not knowing what they’re saying. Hadn’t heard that one before.  Also, looking for silver linings anywhere I can find them, we won the 3rd qtr. 18-17, and have scored more points than other 16 seeds, so far. Have to root for Longwood to score less than 51 today. Will watch coach Abe’s UCF team today at 3:30. 

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Been trying to find the replay on the ESPN app - all the other first-round games are out there.

Want to see it partly because on a Louisville forum the fans were wondering why the announcers were calling us New Albany. Another reason I think UAlbany is overused.

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I caught Roger Wyland's segment on WNYT this evening .... featuring Colleen Mullen discussing the past year and her 4-year plan to become the America East Tournament champion ..... amazing how a 23 win season can relax a person ..... looking forward to having Colleen and her team back next year ....  WBB team to a real nice job on their March Madness video .... worth catching

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