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UAlbany Women's Basketball: Banner Season Ends in NCAA Tournament

UAlbany's women's basketball team walks off the court after falling in the first round of the 2012 NCAA Tournament. (David J. Phillip, AP)

College Station, Texas (March 17, 2012) -- The players on UAlbany's Women's Basketball team have celebrated a number of 'firsts' in 2012, such as their first America East Championship and their first 20-win season at the Division I level. Unfortunately, the Great Danes failed to become the first team seeded 14th in the women's NCAA Tournament history to advance to the second round when they fell 69-47 to the Texas A&M Aggies.

UAlbany's Ebone Henry scored 14 points and had nine rebounds on Saturday evening at Reed Arena, in a game that was much closer than the final score portrayed. In their first-ever Tournament appearance, the Great Danes outrebounded the defending national champions, 48-33.

Coming into 2012, the top three seeds in the Women's Tournament were a combined 215-1, with the lone loss coming in 1998 when 16th-seeded Harvard upset Stanford, 71-67. No teams seeded 14th or 15th have ever beaten a two- or three-seed team since the Tournament expanded in 1994. Yet UAlbany kept the game close throughout the first 30 minutes, and never once appeared overwhelmed by the environment.

The Great Danes got on the board first with a basket by Julie Forster. Texas A&M responded, getting a conventional three-point play from Tyra White, but a layup by Henry kept the Great Danes on top. Adaora Elonu then recorded a steal on the Great Danes and hit a jumper in the paint to give the Aggies a 5-4 lead at the first media timeout. The teams exchanged baskets to alternate the lead again, before Texas A&M got two free throws from Adrienne Pratcher to extend the lead to 9-6.

The two defensive-minded teams continued to battle through the first half, and a steal by Adrienne Jones and basket by Sarah Royals pulled UAlbany to within 15-13 with just over seven minutes left to play. A basket by Forster in the paint tied the game at 17-17 with just over five minutes on the clock. However, a basket by White and two free throws by Skylar Collins put the Aggies back on top by four. UAlbany’s Tabatha Makopondo grabbed a rebound and hit a jumper, and Forster went 1-of-2 from the free throw line, cutting the lead to 20-21, but A&M got a 3-pointer by Kristi Bellock just before the shot clock expired to put the Aggies up by four at the four-minute media timeout.

With just under two minutes left to play in the first, Henry hit back-to-back baskets, taking an assist from Cassandra Callaway to drain a long three from the right side of the arc, tying the game at 25-25 with 1:41 on the clock. However, White, who finished with 12 points in the half, hit a jumper and a 3-pointer, while Makopondo was only able to hit 1-of-2 free throws, as the team hit the locker rooms with Texas A&M on top, 30-26.

UAlbany women's basketball player Ebone Henry
UAlbany's Ebone Henry drives to the basket against Texas A&M. Henry led UAlbany with 14 points and nine rebounds. (David J. Phillip, AP)

A quick basket by the Aggies gave A&M a six-point lead to start the second half, but UAlbany got six straight points to tie the game back up at 32-all. Texas A&M fired back and forced the Great Danes into two turnovers, getting a layup by Elonu and a 3-pointer from the right corner from Carter to take a 37-32 lead and prompt UAlbany to take a time out. The Aggies continued on a 12-2 run, getting up by ten, 44-34, with just over 14 minutes left to play.

Texas A&M continued to roll, as Alexia Standish nailed a 3-pointer to put the Aggies up by 13, 49-36. Henry and Forster both hit jump shots to try to spark a UAlbany rally, but Karla Gilbert sank a bucket to keep A&M on top. Standish nailed another long-range shot to put the Aggies up, 57-41, at the eight-minute media timeout. UAlbany refused to fold, and continued its relentless defense against the bigger, more experienced Aggies. A&M built up a 19-point lead, 64-45, on a fourth 3-pointer by Standish as the clock wound down under three minutes. The Aggies, who shot 46.6 percent (27-58) from the floor in the game, continued their hot shooting, and extended their lead out to 22 points before the final buzzer.

White led the Aggies with 18 points, while Elonu and Standish totaled 13 and 12 points, respectively. Texas A&M (23-10), forced UAlbany into 24 turnovers and shot 58.3 percent (7-12) from 3-point range.

Freshman Megan Craig totaled nine points and seven rebounds, while also recording all three of UAlbany’s blocks in the game. Forster finished with eight points and grabbed a game-high 12 rebounds. The Great Danes shot 31.7 percent (19-60) from the floor and recorded eight steals, led by Henry with three. Henry played all 40 minutes for UAlbany.

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