Richards’ 28-point night flies UAlbany past Providence 71-58
By Troy Farkas
Dec. 2, 2015
ALBANY, N.Y.— For the UAlbany women, the name on the opponent’s jersey doesn’t mean anything. After beating an Atlantic 10 team (Rhode Island) and losing to a powerhouse SEC team (Tennessee) on Black Friday, the Great Danes’ tough schedule continued Tuesday night at SEFCU Arena.
Katie Abrahamson-Henderson’s team (5-1) hosted Providence (2-4) of the Big East Conference. The purple and gold only trailed once in the game and never looked back after regaining the lead, eventually beating the Friars 71-58.
For Coach Abe, facing top-tier competition early in the season is key.
“It’s awesome at this time of the year. We’re playing high-level teams right now,” said Henderson. “We’re just gonna continue to get better. I don’t wanna let down.”
Coming off a loss in Knoxville, the Danes needed to get back in the win column. It was a slow start for UAlbany, who only led 38-30 thanks to Providence’s 58 percent shooting from the field.
The Great Danes looked set to blow out Providence after reaching an 18-point lead late in the third quarter and again at the beginning of the fourth, but the Friars had different ideas in mind.
Once the Providence defense switched to full-court pressure in the early part of the fourth quarter, the Danes’ offense went missing. A string of missed shots and turnovers eventually dwindled the UAlbany lead to five points with as much as 2:37 to go.
And as conventional sports wisdom says, when things look bleak, it’s the job of the best players to pick the team up.
Following an Erin Coughlin steal, Junior guard Imani Tate, America East Player of the Week two weeks ago, attacked the basket for a lay-up, drawing a foul from Providence’s Yoyo Jovana in the process. Tate converted on the free throw attempt to put the Danes up eight. The basket deflated the Friars’ momentum, who would eventually lose by 13 points following a string of made UAlbany free throws.
Shereesha Richards led all scorers with 28 points on the night, shooting 9 of 11 from the free throw line, adding five rebounds and three steals.
“Rees is a difference maker in terms of points. In terms of field goals, turnovers, rebounds, steals,” said Coach Abe. “Her stat line is just awesome.”
Richards was swarmed by two or three defenders almost every time she touched the ball in the low post, although this is really nothing new.
“I’m used to it. I know that every game I’m always gonna get double or triple-teamed. I just have to find a way around it,” said Richards.
“She draws so many people and just opens up everyone else,” said Coach Abe.
Players like Tate and Zakiya Saunders are the beneficiaries of opponents’ focusing on Richards. But in the meantime, the squad is just happy to get wins against teams from elite conferences before America East play starts up in a few weeks.
“It’s experience. We’re trying to play next-level teams working up toward the NCAA tournament,” said Tate. “I think playing these teams is getting us towards that.”
The UAlbany women don’t have any more marquee non-conference match-ups on the calendar. But should the opportunity arise again in a potential post-season run, the team is confident they’re up to the challenge.
“In my mind we’re supposed to win,” said Richards. “I think we’re a great team. We can pretty much play anyone.”
The Great Danes will take that mindset on the road to West Point on Saturday to face Army at 3:00 p.m.