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WBB Game Five Nov 25 (Fri) 2:00 PM EST - Thomas and Mack Center - UNLV, Las Vegas, Neveda

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Danes thankful in Las Vegas


By Abigail Rubel

James Black / Icon Sportswire via Getty

UAlbany’s Helene Haegerstrand might return from an undisclosed injury to play against 4-0 UNLV on Friday in Las Vegas.

ALBANY — The University at Albany women’s basketball team has plenty to be thankful for this year.

The Great Danes are 3-1 despite injuries to Helene Haegerstrand, Kayla Cooper, Morgan Haney and Lucia Decortes and are ranked 14th in the College Insider Mid-Major poll, up from 15th last week. And they’re spending Thanksgiving in Las Vegas before playing the University of Nevada-Las Vegas in the UNLV Thanksgiving Tournament at 2 p.m. Friday.

“It’s great team bonding and an experience to build good memories and work on our culture,” UAlbany coach Colleen Mullen said.

“Especially for us internationals, we’re not used to celebrating Thanksgiving, so that’s going to be so fun to do it together with the team,” said sophomore guard and Swedish national Freja Werth, who spent last Thanksgiving with teammate Lilly Phillips’ family in Cambridge.

More good news for UAlbany: Haegerstrand might return against the Rebels.

“We’re thinking that (Helene) will be back for a little bit,” Mullen said.

Haegerstrand led the Great Danes last season with 11.8 points per game and was named to the America East all-conference first team.

In her absence, Ellen Hahne is averaging 18.5 points per game but was held to just eight last weekend in a loss to Colgate.

“They had a specific game plan against Ellen, to make her feel uncomfortable, to limit her, so I think that was also really good experience for Ellen to get moving forward, that people are going to be keying in on her,” Mullen said.

“We had similar experiences last season too, so this is not like a big deal. We’re going to lose, and we have to learn from it and be ready to play this weekend,” said Werth, who’s scoring 13.8 ppg.

The biggest lesson for UAlbany, according to Mullen, is “not feeling pressure.”

The Great Danes trailed for just the second time all season as the Raiders got out to an early lead and shot 2-for-17 in the third quarter, 28.1 percent overall.

“There was some lack of execution there, but I think at the end of the day it was just us feeling sped up,” Mullen said. “When things aren’t going our way on offense, it can’t affect our defense. We’re a defensive team and we’ve got to always fall back on that.”

The Rebels, who were picked to finish first in the Mountain West Conference, are 4-0 to start the season. They’re led by Desi-Rae Young’s 17.3 points and 9.3 rebounds per game.

The other teams in the tournament are East Tennessee State (4-1), George Washington (3-2), Louisiana Tech (3-1), Stetson (2-1), UC San Diego (1-2) and Illinois State (3-0). Illinois State is ranked No. 8 in the mid-major poll.

“The teams that are going to be in the tournament are very good,” Phillips said. “It’ll be really fun to just show what we’ve been working on, show our skill set and just go out there and compete against bigger schools.”

UAlbany vs. UNLV

■› When: 2 p.m. Friday

■› Where: Thomas & Mack Center, Las Vegas

■› Listen: UNLVrebels.com

▶› Abigail.Rubel@- timesunion.com A @abigail_rubel

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