Courtesy: UA Sports
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – With Shereesha Richards leading the charge with 34 points, the fourth-highest single game total in program history, the UAlbany women’s basketball team battled #9/8 North Carolina most of the way, falling short in a 71-56 defeat.
“We are trying to get better as a team and play at a high level, that’s why we play these games to see where we are,” said UAlbany coach Katie Abrahamson-Henderson. “It was a good game, I wanted them to fight and see what was inside of them.”
Richards earned a season-high 34 points, her second highest total in her collegiate career, with nine rebounds and three steals. No other, including UNC players, scored more than 16 points in the contest. Richards also moved into 5th all-time in UAlbany history in scoring with 1,219 points.
“I would like to win every game, and today, it is not about how many points I scored,” said Richards. “We want to get to that level so we can win these games.”
“She is a great person first and a workhorse second, and she is relentless,” said Abrahamson-Henderson on Richards. “It is a blessing to have her on this team.”
UAlbany (7-6) led early in the contest, with UNC (12-1) getting 6-0 and 7-0 runs in the first half to build a double digit lead. UAlbany was outscored in the second half by only three.
Tiana-Jo Carter scored seven points with a game-high 10 rebounds, while Imani Tate also had seven points with three boards.
For UNC, Jessica Washington scored 16 points off the bench, adding five rebounds. Alisha Gray scored 15 points with three steals and seven rebounds, while Stephanie Mavunga nearly had a double-double with 14 points and nine rebounds.
At the game’s start, UAlbany looked to the paint while UNC fired away from three. Carter hit the opening basket on a putback. UNC got a mini 5-0 run, with Richards countering with a layup to pull UAlbany within one at 5-4 in the opening 3:01.
Down 8-5, UAlbany got a spurt: Richards hit the layup, then with the full court press, Sarah Royals forced the turnover in the backcourt, with the pass to Tate turning into a layup for a 9-8 Great Danes lead. After a Gray three, Richards hit another basket to tie the game at 11.
Following a Latifah Coleman three for UNC, both sides traded baskets, with Richards continuing to hit shots and the Tar Heels finding scores in the paint. At 18-17, the home team hit three jumpers in a row, the final pair from Mavunga, to build a 24-17 lead, inducing UAlbany to call a timeout.
Richards stopped the run with another jumper, then Royals forced a steal up top the arc, going coast-to-cast against two UNC players to score a layup to pull UAlbany within four at 26-22 with 8:19 remaining in the 1st.
UNC kept UAlbany without points for over the next six minutes while the Great Danes held the Tar Heels out of the paint, allowing two three-pointers in the same time span. A UNC free throw made it 33-22 with under two in the 1st.
Carter hit a layup to stop the UNC streak, with Cassandra Edwards adding a free throw. UNC hit two baskets in the final 1:16 of the half to lead 37-25 at the break.
Into the second half, Richards came back in after foul trouble and started getting baskets, trading baskets with UNC. A Richards jumper and couple of free throws pulled UAlbany to be down 44-32 four minutes into the period.
UNC starting getting hot from the perimeter, hitting its next three attempts, with a Tar Heel free throw and Richards layup making the score 54-34 UNC under 14 minutes remaining.
UAlbany called timeout and regrouped. Royals drove down the baseline and hit the layup, followed by Zakiya Saunders deflecting, stealing and scoring on her own. Tate added free throws, then Saunders had an arc pass to Richards to make it an 8-0 run to make it 54-42 as the UAlbany defense held UNC without points for four minutes.
The teams kept exchanging baskets as UNC kept a double digit lead. UAlbany kept finding Richards for shots underneath, while UNC took advantage of the free throw line. UNC built the lead back up to 17 at 62-45 with 6:38 left to play.
The Great Danes kept fighting, using a Carter layup and a Tate basket to pull back within 13 with five minutes left. UAlbany did not get closer, and despite late points from Richards and Margarita Rosario, the Great Danes fell 71-56.
UAlbany now gets set for America East play, traveling to Bangor for a noon game against Maine on Saturday, January 3rd on ESPN3.