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UAlbany women's basketball: Danes up for Devils

Thursday, December 19, 2013
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UAlbany women’s basketball coach Katie Abrahamson-Henderson said the Great Danes were complacent heading into their last game.

That won’t be a problem tonight.

Coming off their first loss of the season, the Danes will take on No. 2 Duke at Cameron Indoor Stadium in the Blue Devils’ first game since getting hammered by No. 1 UConn, 83-71, at Cameron on Tuesday.

Both teams are coming off their only losses of the season. UAlbany (8-1) fell to Quinnipiac, one of the top teams in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, 74-53, on Sunday at SEFCU Arena.

“It was a reality check,” Abraham­son-Henderson said. “I was saying it two weeks ago, ‘You guys are getting comfortable, I can just feel it.’ Then we won against NJIT, and it wasn’t pretty. Then when we came here, I think they thought they were just going to show up and win.”

Megan Craig, UAlbany’s 6-foot-9 center, has missed the last two games with a minor undisclosed injury.

She was expected to make the trip to Durham, N.C., and be in uniform for the Duke game, although it is questionable whether she’ll play.

The Duke game puts the Great Danes back in another matchup against an ACC powerhouse.

Seeded 14th, UAlbany had a five-point lead over North Carolina in the first round of the NCAA tournament last year before losing, 59-54.

That’s the kind of experience that could help against the Blue Devils in what promises to be a loud, unfriendly gym, even without the since-graduated stars Ebone Henry and Julie Forster.

“We see it as a game just like North Carolina,” sophomore forward Shereesha Richards said. “They’re a big team. People don’t think we’re a big team, but we’re going to go there and fight and take them by surprise, and hopefully, we’ll see what the end result will be.”

“Last year, we played Michigan State [early] and went out there and were a little nervous, but we learned from that,” Abrahamson-Henderson said. “So by the end of the year, we got better, and by the time we played North Carolina, it was another big stage and we were prepared for it.”

On the heels of her fifth Amer­ica East player of the week award, Richards is averaging 23.0 points per game, tied for 12th in the U.S. heading into Wednesday’s games, and 10.4 rebounds.

With Craig out of the lineup, opponents have been loading up double teams against her.

Richards believes there’s a chance that Duke will overlook UAlbany, but at the same time, the Blue Devils will be eager to get back on the winning track, just as the Great Danes are.

“It’s going to be a tough challenge, but we’ve been preparing,” she said. “They just played UConn, and I don’t expect them to come out and be soft. But I’m sure they’re thinking, ‘Who’s Albany?’ We’re just another team. But we’re ready to go and fight.”

The game was arranged because there was an open date on the schedule and Abrahamson-Henderson and Duke coach Joanne McCallie have been close friends since they were on the same staff at Maine in 1992. They were reunited in 2000, when McCallie was the head coach at Michigan State and hired Abrahamson-Henderson as an associate coach.

UAlbany’s next game will be at home at 2 p.m. on Sunday against Colgate, during which Henry and Forster will have their jerseys retired.

 
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