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WBB - Game 14/Conference Game 1 - vs Bryant, Broadview Center, Albany, NY, Thursday, January 4, 2024

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Danes set for their league opener


By Pete Dougherty


When: 7 p.m. Thursday

Where: Broadview Center, Albany

TV: ESPN+ (streaming)

ALBANY — In October, the America East women’s basketball coaches spoke. In November and December, the University at Albany players answered. Now, the preliminaries have ended.

The 40th season of America


East women’s basketball begins Thursday night. UAlbany, despite being picked just third in a preseason coaches’ poll, was dominant in non-conference games, finishing 11-2 and leading the AE in seven team statistical categories.

“Everybody’s record really doesn’t matter because it’s apples to oranges,” sixth-year coach Colleen Mullen said Wednesday as she prepared her team for her conference opener against Bryant. “Everybody’s had a different non-conference schedule, everybody’s played different opponents. Now it’s about how you do in your league and how you do against like opponents.”

Still, there’s no denying how the Great Danes played in the first two months. Their only losses came in the season’s second game at Fordham, 66-63, and on a Thanksgiving weekend trip to No. 4 Stanford, 79-35. UAlbany is on a seven-game winning streak, all double-digit victories.

The Danes lead the America East in scoring (68.0), scoring defense (51.2), scoring margin (+16.8), field-goal defense (.359), 3-point shooting (.398), rebound margin

(6.6) and turnover margin (2.7). Their nonconference record is 3 1 /2 games better than preseason favorite Vermont (8-6) and 4 1 /2 ahead of Maine (7-7), picked No. 2 in the preseason poll.

“It’s kind of fun to be picked third,” Mullen said. “I know Helene Haegerstrand wasn’t back on the team, and we had a lot of new players when they picked us. … Honestly, I don’t blame them. I thought that it was pretty generous to pick us at third, with how many people that we lost and only returning five players.

“The preseason poll is what it is, but I’m the type of person that likes to be the underdog. I like to be the one that has that underdog mentality. Although our record is 11-2 and we’re coming in with an X on our backs, I still feel like our team carries themselves as the underdog mentality. We have something to prove to ourselves, and we have something to prove to the league.”

Bryant (7-6) was selected seventh in the preseason poll. The Bulldogs and Danes each have victories over nonconference foes Central Connecticut State, Dartmouth and Stonehill. Their other common opponent is Merrimack, which lost to UAlbany but defeated Bryant.

UAlbany won both meetings against Bryant last season.

“It definitely feels like a new season,” UAlbany junior guard Lilly Phillips said. “Also, just finishing the winter break off, you come back and have a restart.”

One significant change in this year’s America East is a Thursday/Saturday scheduling format. The conference previously scheduled most games on Wednesdays and Saturdays.

After Thursday night’s game, UAlbany will stay home to face NJIT on Saturday afternoon.

“I think they’re hopeful that we’ll move to true travel partners, where it’s easier for the UMBCs and the Maines to travel,” Mullen said. “It kind of hurts us because we’re so centrally located that we have easier trips. It’s just something to adjust to. I love Wednesday/Saturday because it’s two days to prep, the game, two days to prep, but the landscape is ever-changing.”“It’ll definitely be a change,” Phillips said. “I’m not really sure yet because we haven’t actually done it, but it’ll be interesting. Everyone’s going through the same thing, so it’s not like we’re the only one who has a one-day prep.”

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