Friday, November 9, 2007

Indiana Rallies in Second Half to Defeat UAlbany, 67-59, in Women's Basketball Season Opener

Courtesy: UAlbany Sports Information

Bloomington, Ind. – Amber Jackson scored 22 points and grabbed nine rebounds as Indiana rallied in the second half for a 67-59 victory over UAlbany in the season opener for both teams on Friday, Nov. 9 at Assembly Hall.

Indiana (1-0) trailed 45-37 early in the final period, but then regrouped with 11 unanswered points. Jori Davis made a conventional three-point play when she was fouled on a layup to slice the deficit to one. The freshman guard then put her team ahead for good with an offensive rebound of Jamie Braun’s missed shot. Jackson, a 6-foot-2 junior who made 10-of-14 from the floor, completed the outburst with a jumper.

The Hoosiers, who posted a 19-14 record and advanced to the WNIT’s third round last season, still led 53-49 after UAlbany’s Gia Sanders hit a layup following Joy Sterling’s offensive rebound. Indiana’s Jackson, a transfer from San Jose State where she was a first-team all-conference selection, made another jumper and Braun connected on a fastbreak layup to push their team’s advantage to six points with 5:52 remaining.

“This is the strongest opening game that we have played since I have been here,” UAlbany coach Trina Patterson said. “It was encouraging to see the defensive intensity and high tempo. We want to be the most athletic team in the (America East) conference. And if our kids are out there flying around who knows what could happen.”

The Great Danes, who opened on the road for the ninth time in the last 10 years, trailed early on, but then ran off 14 consecutive points to build a 19-10 margin. Sophomore Britney McGee canned a pair of three-point field goals in that stretch. Indiana guard Nikki Smith later tied the contest at 24 apiece with a layup. However, UAlbany responded with 10 of the game’s next 11 points to take a 34-25 halftime lead. TaNika Thrower, who returned the floor for the first time since the 2005-06 campaign after a medical redshirt season, made two free throws and put back a missed shot in that span. Sanders, a 6-foot-1 senior, converted a fastbreak after her steal with 22 seconds left in the period.

UAlbany (0-1) moved out to a 41-27 cushion in the opening two minutes of the second half. Higy, who had 14 points and 10 rebounds, scored off the offensive glass, before Tiffanie Johnson drilled a jumper. Freshman guard Janea Aiken then canned a three-pointer to give the Great Danes their biggest lead.

“We outrebounded team, had more offensive rebounds, and had had the same number of turnovers,” explained Patterson, whose squad dropped a 75-46 decision to Wisconsin last December in the program’s first-ever meeting with a Big Ten Conference team. “The big difference in the game is who went to the free throw line. They had 23 points from the line and that’s the difference right there.”

Braun, a sophomore guard who was the Big Ten’s top bench player last year, finished with 14 points. Whitney Thomas, a 6-foot junior, had nine of her 11 points after the intermission. The Hoosiers shot just 37 percent, including 0-for-14 from the three-point arc, but offset that shooting by making 23-of-34 from the foul line. UAlbany’s Sanders posted her second career double-double with 14 points and 10 rebounds. A member of the 2007 America East all-defensive team, Sanders added four blocked shots and three steals.

“We are playing with more intensity,” offered Sanders, whose team finished 9-22 overall last year and was picked to finish eighth in the conference’s preseason poll. “Our defense was much more aggressive and our offense was efficient. We had great team chemistry, especially off the bench. We have a spark that last year’s team did not have.”

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