Danes hold off Wildcats
It looked like the UNH women's basketball team would take down the undefeated Albany giant on Wednesday's Senior Night. But after getting out to an impressive 30-18 start in the first half, the Wildcats fizzled down the stretch, losing 55-46.
"It was a tough game, but I'm proud with the way we played for the majority of the game," sophomore Ariel Gaston said. "It was a game we should have won, but we know we can hang with the best team in the league."
The game was a tale of two halves for UNH, with the better of the two coming in the first. Because it was Senior Night, seniors Cari Reed, Morgan Frame, Lauren Wells, and Jilliane Friel got the start along with fifth-year junior Kelsey Hogan. The lineup was extremely effective, playing the first seven and a half minutes together and getting out to a 9-4 lead.
"We came out emotional, and we fought it throughout," Frame said. "I was really proud of the girls tonight and I loved playing with my seniors to start."
The defensive intensity, especially by local New Hampshire native Jilliane Friel, frustrated the Great Danes into only shooting 29.7 percent from the court. Meanwhile, the Wildcats made plenty of big shots, with 12 points coming from Frame, nine points from Reed, and seven points from Gaston.
"I was really proud of our defense tonight, a lot better than on Saturday," UNH head coach Maureen Magarity said. "I felt like we really pressed them and made them get out of their zone and forced them into man."
The Wildcats fortunes changed quickly, however, as the Great Danes scored three quick buckets in the first two minutes of the second half to cut UNH's lead down to six, 30-24.
"I feel like we came out with energy in the second half but we didn't match their energy," Gaston said.
While the Wildcats battled, the Wildcats were done in by poor shooting, 24.1 percent for 16 points, and poor defense, 37 points along with 22 rebounds in the second half.
"I felt tonight was our night," Magarity said. "First half we played great defense, made out shots. Second half we came out flat and things didn't go our way. I was proud of them for about 30 minutes."
Hurting UNH the most was hulking 6'8" Great Danes center Megan Craig. Her size and strength made her a mismatch against the smaller Frame and forward Kaylee Kilpatrick. Craig was able to score 20 points and grab four offensive rebounds over 26 minutes of play.
"I think Megan Craig really hurt us tonight," Magarity said. "She had the size over us and they lobbed it to her and she delivered. She's much improved from last year.
Despite the loss, the Wildcats had some great performances, starting with Frame's 16 points, eight rebounds, and two assists over 35 minutes of play. Frame's defense was also a key for the Wildcats in the first half as she helped clog the paint and actually outplayed Craig in the first half.
Gaston played at a very high level, staying active on both sides of the ball with nine points, seven rebounds, and an assist over 19 minutes of play.
Cari Reed was second on the team with 11 points, and added in three steals and an assist over 37 minutes of play. Reed failed to record a rebound for the first time this season.
The Wildcats will have to put the loss to Albany behind them as they look ahead towards Maine this Saturday, March 2. The game will be UNH's final regular season game before the America East tournament.
"Maine game is one of those rivalries games that the kids always get up for," Magarity said. "We want to end the regular season on a high note. They're a tough team to go against on the road so we're going to have to play a little bit more consistently."
UNH and Maine last met on Jan. 29 when the Wildcats pulled out a win at hime, 61-54.
"Maine can come to play, but I think we know we need to go in and win that and I think we're going to do it," Frame said.
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