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Game 30 / Conference 16 Feb 25 (Sat) 2:00 PM Newark, NJ NJIT Wellness and Fitness Center

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Playoff picture a lot more clear for the Danes


By Abigail Rubel


Jenn March / Special to the Times Union UAlbany’s Grace Heeps, left, said the team got a boost from beating Maine this past Saturday, which would help prevent the Great Danes from collecting any rust during their bye week.


Jim Franco / Times Union archive UAlbany coach Colleen Mullen said that her players can’t get caught up with paying attention to other results in the league and just needs to focus on beating NJIT.


UAlbany at NJIT

■› When: 2 p.m. Saturday

■› Where: NJIT Wellness and Events Center, Newark, N.J.

■› Stream: ESPN3

ALBANY — When it comes to claiming the one seed in the America East playoffs, the University at Albany women’s basketball team can only do so much in the last game of the regular season.

The Great Danes (19-10, 13-2 America East) are tied with Vermont at the top of the standings. A win at NJIT at 2 p.m. Saturday would guarantee them at least a share of the regular-season title, but UAlbany would only be seeded first if the Catamounts lose. Regardless, UAlbany can’t fall lower than No. 2.

“Right now we can only control going out and beating NJIT, and luckily we have a good scout ready for us to be successful, but at the end of the day, we just have to win games. We can’t control the other teams,” senior guard Grace Heeps said.

Vermont hosts Bryant (3-12 league) in Saturday afternoon’s final game.

The Highlanders (13-14, 8-7) are locked into the fifth seed. Freshman guard Alejandra Zuniga leads them with 12.6 points per game.

The Great Danes had a valuable bye Wednesday night, giving them the opportunity to rest and recover heading into the playoffs.

“I think that really taking care of our bodies through recovery, sleep and eating well is really going to help us benefit and be having a leg up against teams going forward,” Heeps said.

UAlbany had to shake off some rust after its last bye week, needing a fourth-quarter comeback against New Hampshire and then losing by one point at Maine. But Mullen said staying healthy is the most important thing, especially with several players battling injury.

“As coach, you always want to do more and you always want to put that last play in and go a little extra to make sure that you’ve covered your bases, but at the end of the day you just have to trust the players to make plays, and more is less right now,” she said.

The Great Danes watched the playoff picture become slightly clearer Wednesday night. Vermont beat Binghamton to extend its winning streak to 13 games and keep pace with UAlbany, which beat Maine on Saturday. UMBC lost to UMass Lowell in the Retrievers’ last regular-season game, and Maine beat New Hampshire.

Those results mean Vermont wins the one seed if it and UAlbany finish with the same record, regardless of Saturday’s other results. Why?

First, the America East looks at the record between the tied teams. The Catamounts and Great Danes are 1-1 against each other. The next tiebreaker is record against conference opponents in descending rank order. If UMBC had been able to claim third place outright, UAlbany would have won that tiebreaker because it swept UMBC and Vermont didn’t. After Wednesday’s results, the best UMBC can do is tie Maine for third.

If Maine wins Saturday and claims third place outright, Vermont wins the tiebreaker for top seed because it swept the Black Bears and UAlbany didn’t. If Maine and UMBC tie for third, the conference would look at UAlbany and Vermont’s combined record against the two teams — the Great Danes and Catamounts are both 3-1 against the group. The America East breaks ties from the top, so it doesn’t matter to UAlbany’s seeding if the Retrievers ultimately prevail in a tiebreaker with Maine or not.

If Maine and UMBC do tie, the America East next looks at winning percentage in conference road games to break a tie, which would go to Vermont if both the Catamounts and Danes win or both lose. If one wins and the other loses, tiebreakers don’t matter — the winner claims the regular-season title outright. The Great Danes’ most recent regular-season championship was in 2013-14; the Catamounts haven’t done it since 2001-02.

“We just have to take care of our business. We can’t worry about what other people are doing, because we have no control over that, and the minute you start focusing on what this means if this person wins … it just takes away from what you’re really trying to do, and that’s play your best and just win,” Mullen said.

Maine and UMBC are guaranteed to round out the top four seeds and host at least a first-round playoff game. Bryant will be fighting for a playoff spot at Vermont; a loss could send the Bulldogs into a three-way tie with UMass Lowell (3-12) and New Hampshire (2-13), who play each other.

If there is a three-way tie at the bottom of the standings, UNH would be No. 7 by virtue of sweeping UMass Lowell. The River Hawks would get the last playoff spot, and the Bulldogs would miss the postseason all together.

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

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3 minutes ago, tnehurley said:

UA 59 NJIT 49. Cooper 15, Hahne 12, Haegerstrand 10, Lee 8. Senior Day for NJ in a very nice arena and other than player families, the place is nearly empty. Sad to see. Anyway, Maine wins a tight one with Bing. 69-65 to get the 3 seed. Anne Simon back for Maine. On to the tourney.

Great win for the ladies. 

NJIT's presence in the league is what we all thought it would be.  They are a better fit for the NEC.  They only got in due to the arena and other facility upgrades the AE demanded.  They don't help the league profile or recruiting.  

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Wednesday, March 1, 2023 Women's Basketball
  Away Home Time Location Links
5:00 p.m.
Burlington, VT TV: ESPN+
7:00 p.m.
Orono, ME TV: ESPN+
7:00 p.m.
Baltimore, MD TV: ESPN+
7:00 p.m.
Albany, NY TV: ESPN+
7:00 p.m.
Albany, NY TV: ESPN+
7:00 p.m.
Baltimore, MD TV: ESPN+
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Danes tie for league crown


By Abigail Rubel



The University at Albany women’s basketball team accomplished one of its top goals Saturday afternoon, beating NJIT 59-49 to claim at least a share of the regular-season America East title for the first time since 2015-16.

“I’m just so proud of their effort and their focus and their buy-in, their trust in each other,” coach Colleen Mullen said. “It’s so nice for them to see their dreams and their goals realized.”

Though the Great Danes took time to celebrate the victory, in which they never trailed, their thoughts quickly turned to the playoffs.

“Good win, but we’re not done yet,” senior forward Helene Haegerstrand said.

The Great Danes (20-10, 14-2 league) spent the bus ride back from Newark, N.J., watching Vermont beat Bryant 64-41 to tie UAlbany for the regular-season title and clinch the No. 1 seed in the playoffs. UAlbany will be the No. 2 seed and host UMass Lowell in Wednesday’s quarterfinal.

More so than momentum, ending the regular season with a win gives UAlbany confidence heading into the conference tournament, Haegerstrand said. The Great Danes have won five games in a row.

“I think we’re coming together as a team. We know what we’re capable of. We’re getting better every day,” Haegerstrand said.

Against NJIT (13-15, 8-8), junior guard Kayla Cooper had her fifth double-double in six games with 15 points and 13 rebounds, and Haegerstrand filled up the box score with 10 points, eight rebounds, three blocks and a career-high six assists. Fifth-year guard Ellen Hahne was the third Great Dane in double digits with 12 points.

Sophomore forward Trinity Williams led the Highlanders with a career-high 18 points and 10 rebounds, and junior guard Aria Myers had 12 points.

UAlbany jumped out to a 12-2 lead, holding the Highlanders scoreless for more than four minutes to start the game. NJIT heated up to close within 18-15 at the end of the quarter, and UAlbany’s only points in the last four minutes came at the foul line.

Myers briefly tied the game with a 3 to start the second quarter, but red-shirt junior guard Morgan Haney drained one of her own, and UAlbany outscored NJIT 18-8 through the rest of the period. Freshman guard Alejandra Zuniga, NJIT’s leading scorer, had the final basket of the half, a jump shot that got NJIT within 10 heading into the locker room. It was Zuniga’s first basket; she finished with just five points.

“(Hahne) really locked her down,” Mullen said. “And when Ellen wasn’t in, everybody else was just locked in on keeping her in front and making everything uncomfortable for her.”

After allowing the Highlanders to go 7-for-16 from the field in the first quarter, the Great Danes held them to 11-for-48 shooting from the field and 2-for-15 shooting from 3.

UAlbany shot 22-for-53

(41.5 percent) from the field and 4-for-8 (50 percent) from 3 on the game and won on the boards 45-29.

NJIT got back within single digits early in the third quarter on baskets from Williams and sophomore guard Reese Vaughan, but didn’t make any more field goals in the quarter as UAlbany built a 14-point lead, though the Highlanders got seven points at the foul line.

NJIT cut a 15-point deficit to 10 with just less than six minutes to play in the fourth, but the Great Danes allowed just four points — layups from Williams and Zuniga — in the final five minutes while scoring four of their own on a jumper from Hahne and two free throws from Grace Heeps.

“I’m just really excited that we were able to seal that win in such a comfortable fashion against a really good team,” Mullen said.

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

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