ALBANY, N.Y. -- Megan Craig scored a team-high 16 points en route to being named the America East Tournament's Most Outstanding Player to lead UAlbany to a 61-52 win over Hartford in the America East Championship on Saturday evening at SEFCU Arena. The Great Danes became the eighth team in league history to win back-to-back titles, and is just the fourth team to win both the regular season and tournament titles in the same season since 2001-02.
Lindsey Lowrie scored the first five points for the Great Danes on a game-opening 3-pointer and a layup at 17:15 to give UAlbany a 5-2 advantage. After a 4-point play by Amber Bepko that put Hartford on top, 8-5, UAlbany went on a 10-0 run that spanned the next 2:30. Hartford's Ruthanne Doherty ended the Great Dane rally with a basket at 13:40, but Lowrie answered at the other end with a 3-pointer from the top of the arc, keeping UAlbany on top, 18-10, with just over 13 minutes to play. Hartford scored back-to-back baskets to pull back within four, but a jumper by Forster kept the Great Danes on top.
UAlbany extended its advantage to eight on a layup by Shereesha Richards, but Hartford's Daphne Elliott nailed a 3-pointer to cut the Hawks deficit to 24-19 with 6:22 to play in the first. Hartford then went on a 7-2 run to take a 26-25 advantage with under a minute to go, prompting UAlbany to take a timeout. The Great Danes couldn't capitalize before the end of the half, however, which sent the Hawks to the locker room with the one-point lead.
The teams exchanged a pair of free throws to start the half to keep the two-point differential, before Keyana Williams sank one-of-two from the charity stripe to tie the game at 28-28 with 18:17 to play. UAlbany regained the lead, 32-31, on back-to-back baskets by Richards and Megan Craig at 14:38. However, a 3-pointer by Elliott at 14:11 put the Hawks back on top. The teams exchanged baskets before Ebone Henry finally got her first points of the day at the 9:24 mark, and a layup by Richards tied the game at 40-40. The Great Danes took their first lead since the first half on a runner by Henry before the under-eight minute media timeout at 7:48.
After a double-foul call - which was a flagrant on Hartford's Amber Bepko - UAlbany extended its lead to 46-40 on two made free throws by Lowrie and a basket by Craig with 7:25 to play. Hartford wouldn't go away quietly, cutting the score back to two, 50-48, on two free throws by Nikkia Smith with 3:32 to play. The teams exchanged baskets, before a layup by Smith tied the game at 52-all at 1:39. Royals put a layup in with just over a minute to go to put the Great Danes back on top, and UAlbany scored the final five points of the game from the free throw line to seal up the win.
UAlbany finished the game shooting 44.2 percent (23-52) from the floor, and out-rebounded Hartford, 38-31. The Great Danes are just the fourth team in America East history, and the first since Maine in 1996 to go undefeated in the America East regular season and win the tournament title.
With the UAlbany men's team winning the league title earlier on Saturday at Vermont, this marks the sixth time in league history that both the men's and women's programs from the same institution have won the basketball titles in the same season.