Albany, N.Y. - Felicia Johnson scored a career-best 17 points and Julie Forster added a career-high 16 points to go along with eight rebounds and two blocks in leading UAlbany to a 63-52 victory over Fairfield on Wednesday, Dec. 23 at SEFCU Arena. The Great Danes won their third straight game and improved to 5-0 at SEFCU Arena for the first time in program history.
UAlbany (6-4), which led 31-23 at halftime after holding its opponent to just 29 percent shooting through 20 minutes, went ahead by double digits for the first time by scoring the first four points of the second stanza. Forster nailed a jumper and Johnson added two free throws to give the hosts a 35-23 advantage.
Fairfield (6-3), which entered the night having won three of its past four games, chipped away at the lead and cut the deficit to seven at 39-32 on a three-pointer by Katelyn Linney to force the Great Danes to call a timeout with 11:34 left. That was the closest the Stags would come the rest of the way.
The Great Danes, who matched last season's win total with the victory, answered back by scoring 10 of the next 13 points to go ahead, 49-35, at the 10:27 mark on a short jumper by Tabitha Makopondo. Cassandra Callaway added five straight points during the stretch. The advantage grew to as many as 15 points at 52-37 when Makopondo netted her second straight field goal after grabbing an offensive rebound. The visitors would cut the deficit to eight on a pair of shots from downtown by Linney and Stephanie Geehan, but it was not enough as the Great Danes held on for their fifth straight win at home to start the season.
"We knew we had more speed, so we really wanted to push the ball and make them guard us at a fast pace," said Johnson, who entered the evening among the America East assist leaders and ranked second in the conference with a 1.3 assist-to-turnover ratio. "I think we did a good job with that."
After the teams traded baskets in the opening minutes of play, UAlbany scored eight straight points to go ahead by a 12-8 score with 12 minutes remaining in the half and never surrendered its lead. Forster sparked the run by canning consecutive shots. Fairfield came within a basket courtesy of a three-point field goal by Desiree Pina which made it 20-18, but the Great Danes shook off the small rally by scoring 11 of the half's final 16 points to end the stanza ahead by a comfortable eight points.
"At halftime, we reiterated over and over in the locker room that this was a very good team," added Johnson. "Just because we were up at halftime, we knew that this game was not over by any means. We did a good job of staying focused and limiting their runs. When they made a run, we stopped it and then made our run."
UAlbany shot a season-best 44.2 percent (23-52) from the floor while holding Fairfield to a season-low 31.3 percent (21-67) from the field. The Great Danes also outshot the Stags from behind the arc, 30 percent (3-10) to 22.7 percent (5-22), and from the charity stripe, 70 percent (14-20) to 62.5 percent (5-8).
In addition to Johnson and Forster, the Great Danes were paced by Charity Iromuanya's eight points and three steals. Basavand and Callaway added six and five points off the bench, respectively.
Stephanie Geehan led Fairfield by accumulating her sixth straight double-double on 17 points and a game-high 11 boards. She also contributed three blocks and three steals. Pina and Linney also scored in double figures, accounting for 12 and 10 points, respectively. Taryn Johnson had nine points and 11 rebounds off the bench.
"Every game we get better, so the confidence continues to build on a game-to-game basis," said head coach Trina Patterson, whose team will travel to face undefeated and 14th-ranked Nebraska (11-0) on Wednesday, Dec. 30. "They all believe in each other, and everybody understands their role. We are going to play Nebraska hard, and we are going to play them with a lot of effort (next week). We know it's going to be a tough game, but we're going to be ready."
Courtesy: UAlbany Sports Information