Lady Danes suffer tough loss to UNC in NCAA tourney
By James Mann
The University at Albany Lady Danes came up just short on Sunday afternoon against the third-seeded Tarheels. UAlbany missed opportunities in the closing moments of the game as they fell 59-54 in a valiant NCAA tournament effort.
UNC got on the board first with two free throws and a jumper from Tierra Ruffin-Pratt. The quick four points were just a sign of what was to come from the senior guard. Ruffin-Pratt would lead the Tarheels to victory with 30 points, four rebounds and five assists.
UNC went up 6-0 before the Danes got on the board with a three-pointer from Lindsey Lowrie at 16:37. The Tarheels answered right back with a three of their own from Brittany Rountree to give them a 9-3 lead over UAlbany at the first media timeout of the half.
Following some back and forth play the Danes captured their first lead of the game, 15-13, on a Megan Craig bucket at 7:45. However, the lead was short-lived as UNC responded with three point play from Xylina McDaniel to regain a 16-15 lead.
In the closing minutes of the half, the Danes went on a run to gain a 28-23 lead as Shareesha Richards converted 1-of-2 from the line and then forced N’Dea Bryant to turn the ball over in the ensuing possession.
UAlbany started the second half off on the right foot as Ebone Henry nailed a three from the far side. After the strong start, the Danes defense began to struggle against a potent Tarheel offense. Especially, UNC’s 6-foot-6 center Waltiea Rolle as she scored the Tarheel’s first 11 points of the half.
UAlbany saw their lead diminish to 39-36 by the first media timeout of the half but Lindsey Lowrie reestablished their advantage with a three pointer to increase the lead to six. Again, the Tarheels responded immediately as they ran the length of the floor and Rountree laid it in. Ruffin-Pratt tied the game, 42-42, on a three pointer with 11:12 remaining.
Both teams continued to respond on their respective sides of the court as Craig regained the UAlbany lead with a bucket of her own. However, UNC tied it up again and Richards missed a free throw after being fouled on a fast break to give the Danes a one point advantage.
A stifling UAlbany defense forced the Tarheels into a shot clock violation and Royals hit Henry under the basket where she drew the foul and sunk the shot. Hentry hit the free throw to complete the three point play and give UAlbany a 48-44 lead with 9:40 left to play.
After that, Ruffin-Pratt took control of the game and gave UNC a 49-48 lead on a three pointer at 6:35. Ruffin-Pratt continued to plague UAlbany late in the game as she hit two free throws to extend the Tarheel lead to three.
Craig kept UAlbany’s hopes alive on a put-back to cut the deficit to two (56-54). However, just as she began the game, Ruffin-Pratt finished it—converting two free throws to ice the game and send UAlbany packing.
The Danes struggled from the field shooting 27.9 percent but held a slight advantage in rebounding with 44 (UNC had 43). UAlbany had a spectacular season and will be losing seniors Ebone Henry, Julie Forster, Lindsey Lowrie, and Kenya Williams—all of whom had invaluable impacts on the team’s success.
Following the loss, head coach Katie Abrahamson-Henderson was proud of her team’s accomplishments.
“That was pretty amazing, huh?” she said. “We came. There is no way I would let these women be scared of anything. I am proud of them.”
Abrahamson-Henderson guided the Danes to an undefeated season (19 straight wins)—only the seventh time in conference history it has been accomplished.
“When we look back on this, we will not look back on this loss,” Abrahamson-Henderson said. “They [the graduating seniors] are the ones that changed this program. These young women made the difference.”