Albany, N.Y. - Senior captain Charity Iromuanya hit two clutch free throws with 21 seconds remaining and finished with 10 points, six rebounds and four steals to lead UAlbany past Army, 53-49, on Saturday, Dec. 19 at SEFCU Arena. The Great Danes, who lead the America East Conference in scoring defense, improved to a perfect 4-0 at home for the first time since the 1997-98 season after holding their third opponent to under 50 points.
UAlbany (5-4), which also improved to 4-0 against teams it lost to last season, was trailing 45-44 with 2:55 left after Erin Anthony converted two free throws. The teams traded the lead three more times. Iromuanya used a screen at the top of the key and drove in for a layup to put the Great Danes ahead by one at the 2:36 mark. On the next play, Nalini Hawkins came back the other way with a short jumper to put the Black Knights ahead, 47-46. The Great Danes kept fighting, and a good jumper by Felicia Johnson from the right elbow put the hosts back ahead by one at 48-47.
Following a missed three-pointer by Hawkins, Julie Forster drew a foul while attempting a hook shot and sunk both of her free throws to extend the UAlbany lead to three points at 50-47. Two free throws by Hawkins closed the gap to one with 32 seconds remaining. Iromuanya was fouled on the ensuing possession, and came through with two key free throws which pushed the Great Dane lead up to three with 21 ticks left.
"We do whatever it takes to win," said Iromuanya, who helped the Great Danes improve to 2-1 in games decided by five points or less this season after going winless at 0-9 in close games last year. "It wasn't about me (at the free throw line). It was about us. We are all willing to make sacrifices for the better of the team so we can win."
After taking a timeout, Army missed two desperation three-pointers in an attempt to tie the game and force overtime. Keyana Williams grabbed the rebound off the second miss, and put the game on ice at the charity stripe with 1.4 seconds left to keep the Great Danes unbeaten at home.
"I hope (our success at home) can generate more enthusiasm for the program and attract more fans," said head coach Trina Patterson, whose team will conclude its three-game homestand when it hosts Fairfield on Wednesday, Dec. 23 at 5 p.m. "We have a whole different team with so many newcomers, and a whole different thought process. These girls are about team first and individuals second. We played with a lot of effort and heart."
The first half had six lead changes and four ties, as each squad went on two major runs but couldn't break away. After the teams exchanged the first four baskets, Army scored eight of the next nine points to take a 12-5 advantage. The run was capped by a three-point field goal by Jessie Coiffard.
UAlbany climbed back into it by scoring the next nine points to take a 14-12 lead with 11:58 left. Ebone Henry came off the bench and made two field goals, while Johnson converted a shot from downtown during the stretch. Trailing 17-15 at the midway point of the stanza, Army scored nine straight points and appeared to be in control going into halftime.
However, the Great Danes went on an 8-0 run to take a one-point lead at 25-24 with 48 seconds left in the half after Johnson and Melia Basavand canned shots from downtown on consecutive plays. The Black Knights were able to take a 26-25 lead into the break thanks to an 18-foot jumper by Hawkins.
UAlbany once again got a balanced scoring effort, as five players netted nine or 10 points. Forster finished with 10 points and three steals, while Johnson had 10 points, six rebounds and five assists. Williams fell just shy of her first career double-double with nine points and 10 boards. Henry added nine points off the bench.
Army (5-6), which most recently played neck-and-neck with 16th-ranked Oklahoma for 35 minutes before the Sooners went on a run at the end, was led by Anthony's sixth double-double of the season. The junior forward finished with 14 points and 14 boards. Hawkins added a game-high 21 points, while Coiffard contributed nine points and four rebounds.
Courtesy: UAlbany Sports Information