University of Albany basketball coach Colleen Mullen had nothing but praise for University of Maine women’s basketball team after the Black Bears turned in an impressive performance to beat the Great Danes 67-47 in an America East semifinal at Memorial Gym on Sunday afternoon.
Top-seeded UMaine (17-2) put four players in double figures, led by senior guard Blanca Millan’s 17 points, and earned the right to host No. 2 Stony Brook in Friday’s 5 p.m. championship game.
The Black Bears got 13 points each from senior point guard Dor Saar and sophomore guard Anne Simon, to post their ninth straight victory over Albany.
In the other semifinal, Stony Brook beat No. 3 UMass Lowell 75-55.
“They are a very balanced team,” Mullen said. “They all play their roles so well. They have a balanced attack inside and outside. They share the ball. To have 22 assists on 27 baskets is pretty remarkable. And when they shoot 60 percent on their 3-pointers, you know it’s going to be a long night.”
UMaine head coach Amy Vachon said the primary focus leading up to the game was defending the post against a taller Albany squad. The Black Bears outscored No. 4 Albany 28-18 in the paint.
“They did a great job defensively in the paint. They doubled down and took away our inside game. Eleven of our turnovers came from our front line,” Mullen said.
UMaine forced 17 turnovers and had a 20-8 edge in points off turnovers.
“They didn’t allow our post players to breathe,” Albany senior guard Kyara Frames said. “They took us out of our offense.”
“We executed the game plan really well,” Vachon said. “We did a lot of really nice things defensively and we were pretty balanced [offensively], which really helps us.”
The Black Bears used a 13-0 run spanning the first and second quarters to turn a 10-8 deficit into a 21-10 lead, holding the Great Danes scoreless for 7 minutes, 45 seconds.
“We got frazzled by their run. When they go on a run, they’re hard to stop. We didn’t adjust,” Frames said.
“We did a nice job creating turnovers and getting baskets off those,” Vachon said.
Mullen said UMaine is the type of team that capitalizes on its opponents’ mistakes.
UMaine took a 28-18 lead into the intermission and outscored Albany 12-5 at the outset of the third period to build the lead to 40-23 and the Bears led by at least 14 points the rest of the way.
They led by as many as 30 in the fourth quarter.
America East Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year Millan, who had one of her front teeth knocked out in practice last week, also had a game-high nine rebounds to go with five assists and three steals.
Saar added four steals and Simon produced four assists and three rebounds.
Maeve Carroll chipped in with 10 points, six rebounds and four assists and Fanny Wadling, who missed the regular-season finale against New Hampshire with an undisclosed ailment, contributed four points, four rebounds and five assists.
UMaine shot 49.1 percent from the floor and 57.9 percent from the 3-point arc.
Ellen Hahne’s 15 points and four rebounds and Frames’ 12 points, five rebounds and two steals led the 7-11 Great Danes. Kayla Cooper netted 10 points and five rebounds. Six-foot-three post Lucia Decortes posted six rebounds and four assists but was held to two points and turned the ball over eight times.
All-conference third-team pick Helene Haegerstrand, a 6-1 forward, also was limited to two points, nine below her team-leading average.
Albany shot only 36.4 percent from the floor although the Great Danes were 50 percent beyond the 3-point arc.
Albany had a 31-27 edge in rebounds.