Tate and Richards lead WBB past Hartford
By Aaron Cheris
Jan. 28, 2015
On her 22nd birthday, Sheeresha Richards helped give everyone in the purple and gold at SEFCU Arena a much-needed present- a win.
Richards had 39 points and eight rebounds, while teammate Imani Tate had a career high 30 points and 15 rebounds to lead the University at Albany over the University of Hartford 82-58 on Sunday afternoon.
“They were impossible to guard,” UAlbany head coach Katie Abrahamson-Henderson said of Tate and Richards. “I’m very proud of them.”
Led by the birthday girl, the Great Danes got off to a fast start. Richards scored the first points of the game off a pass from Zakiya Saunders. A few possessions later, Richards scored on a baseline drive to the hoop, and was fouled while doing so. Although she couldn’t make the free throw to complete the three-point play, Tate was there to get the rebound and score to increase UAlbany’s early lead.
Richards continued her dominance early in the first half after grabbing an offensive rebound off a Margarita Rosario missed three pointer. Richards put back the layup to give UAlbany an early 14-6 lead. After Richards made two free throws, Tate made a jumper from just inside the three-point arc to increase UAlbany’s lead to 20-6.
Hartford would soon begin their comeback. Deanna Mayza knocked down a three pointer as the shot clock expired to cut UAlbany’s lead to just three. A few minutes later, Amber Bepko hit a three of her own to give the Hawks their first lead of the afternoon. The lead didn’t last long, as Tate made two jumpers of her own to give UAlbany a 35-32 lead at halftime.
Hartford (10-11, 4-3 America East) has always been a team that UAlbany (14-6, 7-0 America East) looks forward to playing. “You know a bull, they see red, they charge. That’s our team,” Richards said of the Hawks and their red jerseys.
The second half started like the first half had ended. Hartford got a layup by Janelle Harrison to give her team a one-point lead. However, Richards and Tate each got baskets of their own to give UAlbany the lead back. Then, Sarah Royals found Rosario open for a three pointer to extend UAlbany’s lead to six.
Again, the lead didn’t last long. Hartford clawed its way back to tie the game on an Reaves layup. Bepko then converted a three pointer to give the Hawks a three-point lead. The back and forth action continued for most of the half, but eventually the Great Danes were too much for the Hawks to handle.
With less than nine minutes to play, Richards made a steal, ran the length of the floor, and got a layup. On he next possession, UAlbany got another steal, which led to a Tate layup off an offensive rebound. The Great Danes kept the pressure on after another Hawks turnover led to a Royals layup. A few possessions later, Rosario knocked down a three pointer as the shot clock expired to send the crowd to its feet. Richard then hit two more layups to put the game out of reach for the Hawks.
Amber Bepko’s 14 points and 12 by Alyssa Reaves led Hartford.
For the first time in program history, UAlbany had two 30 point scorers in a single game in Tate and Richards.
“They’re going to have to pay attention to Imani now,” Abrahamson-Henderson said of UAlbany’s opponents this season.
When asked what inspired her strong play, Tate responded, “It was her birthday,” while pointing at Richards, who chuckled at the response.
During warm-ups, UAlbany wore shirts supporting the You Can Play Project. The America East conference partnered with the You Can Play Project, which thinks athletes should be judged on talent, heart and work ethic, not sexual orientation.
UAlbany and Hartford will meet again this season, with the rematch at Hartford on Feb. 26.