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UAlbany women’s basketball gets Haney, Cooper back before Ohio State

It’s exam time everywhere in college and the biggest test of the season for the University at Albany women’s basketball team is upon us.

UAlbany visits undefeated Ohio State on Friday at 6:00 p.m. The Buckeyes are No. 3 in the country and averaging more than 90 points per game, with a 30-point plus and double-digit wins over Louisville and Tennessee.

But Ohio State isn’t as formidable an opponent as it seems.

“When you go into these games you kind of expect them to be this good. So I think it’s not necessarily intimidating for us, just because there’s no expectations there’s no real pressure. We just go in to show what we’re made of, and if we can compete at that level, we can compete,” said redshirt junior Morgan Haney.

When: 6 p.m. Friday

Where: Columbus, Ohio

Electricity: B1G+

The Great Danes have plenty of experience of high-level competition, having played against Vanderbilt and Boston College in last year’s non-conference program and a trip to Louisville in the first round of the NCAA tournament. They played Boston College again last weekend, lost 74-62 but held it close until the last minute.

“It’s always about not letting someone else speed you up or wear you down and that’s what we talked about with BC, like not going into the dressing room at halftime or after the game and feeling, why did I do that? Why was I intimidated? Why did I play scared, or why did I play nervous, or why did I let the pressure get to me? There’s no reason for that,” said UAlbany coach Colleen Mullen. “It’s just about having faith in your preparation, having faith in yourself and keeping your composure.”

UAlbany showed that composure in a 47-46 win over Stonehill on Wednesday night. Haney, who missed the first 11 games of the season through injury, made the game-winning free throw with 1.5 seconds remaining.

“It was a great welcome back and it was pretty cool to have that experience in my first game,” Haney said.

Junior forward Kayla Cooper also played Stonehill for the first time this season, scoring nine points and grabbing six rebounds with an assist on a Grace Heeps 3-pointer that gave UAlbany a two-point lead in the final 70 seconds.

“On the track, players just had incredible sweepstakes,” Mullen said. “I was just very proud of our defensive performance. Offensively we had some unconventional lineups because of some players coming back which is exciting but with very limited practice time and not much preparation in terms of just a lot of practice.

Haney is from Piqua, Ohio and wanted to go back to Ohio State to play in front of family and friends.

“I really wasn’t expecting to play yesterday, but everything felt pretty good in practice before that, so I tried it a bit and it felt really good,” she said. “Because I’ve had injuries in the past I think that confidence was there and I trusted myself and I knew how my body felt and whether it was ready or not and I felt like it was ready.”

Recovering from multiple knee injuries, Haney won the America East Sixth Player of the Year award last season.

Mullen’s biggest focus ahead of Ohio State is handling the pressure from the Buckeyes — they’re forcing 27.3 turnovers and averaging 15.8 steals per game.

“We’re going to try to focus – similar to BC – very much on just controlling the pace, controlling the ball, not shooting fast, getting them to defend us. And then we just play as solidly as we can, protect the paint and box out every game,” Mullen said.

“It’s really just an opportunity for us to play against one of the best teams in the country and just go out there and show what we’re made of. And hopefully we’ll show some toughness,” Haney said.

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