New York

UAlbany women’s basketball opens season with win despite injuries

The University of Albany women’s basketball team may have missed their top two scorers of the past year, but that didn’t stop the Great Danes from posting a 67-53 win over Merrimack in the season opener.

“The way we play offensively is not based on one specific person. It can be anyone who has a good game or is hot right now,” said fifth-year ward Ellen Hahne, who led the team with 24 points.

Helene Haegerstrand and Kayla Cooper were both unavailable due to injury. Also, Morgan Haney, America East’s reigning sixth player of the year, was absent because of a “coaching decision,” said coach Collen Mullen, who declined to specify whether it was injury-related or personal. Lucia Decortes was out with a lower leg injury.

“There’s a lot of uncertainty in our team,” Mullen said. “Everyone plays from game to game, TBD. Lucia is the only one we know won’t be coming back anytime soon; She will be back sometime in December.”

But even without those four contributors, UAlbany took control of the game early on and led most of the time.

Sophomore guard Freja Werth had 17 points and Lilly Phillips (who was a game decider after suffering an injury in UAlbany’s scrimmage) scored 13.

Hahne and sophomore Abby Ray both had four assists, and senior forward Taniya Hanner had seven rebounds. Ray and Hanner both started the game after averaging just over five minutes each last season.

“It’s just wonderful to see them step up and take advantage of an opportunity,” Mullen said. “It’s the next person up. It’s a long season and for that we will be better and stronger across the board.”

Redshirt forward Marissa Hamilton led Merrimack with 18 points.

UAlbany trailed 8-5 early in the first quarter but finished on a 12-2 run to lead 17-10 by the end of the frame and didn’t lag the rest of the way.

Merrimack went into the dressing room just 11 down at halftime and finished within six points about three minutes into the third quarter, but Hahne hit a layup assisted by Hanner to start a 12-3 run for UAlbany and creating a void that Merrimack could not bridge.

Perhaps no game illustrated UAlbany’s struggle better than the final game of the third quarter. Sophomore guard Ava Owens knocked the ball out of Hahne’s hands as she drove to the layup. Hahne dove for the ball and tried to pass in Heeps’ direction on her back. Prepping for the pass, Heeps snatched the ball and turned it to Phillips, who calmly deflated a buzzer-hitting 3-pointer to give UAlbany a 56-44 lead.

UAlbany passed Merrimack 39-30 and outplayed the Warriors 42-28.

“I think paint touches are definitely an important key on our offense. So if we just keep going like this, it’s only going to look good on us,” Phillips said.

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