BURLINGTON, Vt. – Paced by Imani Tate tying a career-high 33 points and the defense holding its opponent to 17 first half points, the UAlbany women’s basketball team won at Vermont 67-52 on Thursday night to grab sole possession of second place in the America East.
Tate scored 22 of her 33 points in the first half as UAlbany (17-11, 11-4 AE) led Vermont (8-19, 5-10 AE) by 24 through two quarters. UAlbany allowed just seven total first half field goals to Vermont.
“Imani Tate played an unbelievable first half, and it propelled us into a victory tonight,” said UAlbany head coach Joanna Bernabei-McNamee. “We need to stay more focused in the second half, but I thought our defense was solid, primarily in the first half.”
With one game to play in the conference regular season, UAlbany has a one-game lead on UMBC for second place in the America East. A UAlbany win at Hartford or a UMBC loss to New Hampshire will lock up the 2-seed in the upcoming America East Tournament for the Great Danes on Sunday.
Tate ties her career-high that she set on Nov. 21, 2015 with 33 points against Toledo, going 12-for-21 from the field and adding four steals. It ties for the 10th-highest scoring game in UAlbany women’s basketball history.
“It was extremely important to get the win tonight, it was a good team victory,” said Tate. “I wasn’t thinking about my point total, just about getting the win.”
Jessica Fequiere notched her sixth double-double of the season with 10 points and 11 rebounds, adding three steals. Bailey Hixson concluded with 13 points and four boards.
For Vermont, Hanna Crymble tallied 13 points and seven rebounds while Kylie Butler had 10 points, three steals, three assists and four rebounds.
The UAlbany man-to-man pressure gave the Great Danes an early boost, forcing Vermont to miss its first four shots plus two turnovers. Tate sparked a game-opening 7-0 run in the opening 3:30 with a layup and a kickout three, ended by a Hixson fast break layup.
Vermont got to the basket against the UAlbany press and pulled to within three at 9-6. After a pair of Fequiere free throws, Tate continued to hit shots with a layup and three in succession. At 18-10, Tiana-Jo Carter muscled her way inside for the layup, then Tate notched two more baskets to complete her 19-point 1st quarter, giving UAlbany a 25-10 lead.
Hixson took the mantle for Tate going into the 2nd quarter, knocking down a pair of threes from the corner to begin another run, adding a Khepera Stokes layup down the lane. Tate assisted the next score with a fast break pass to Fequiere for the layup and one, with a Hixson jumper completing the run at 13-0 and giving UAlbany a 38-12 advantage with 6:16 left in the 2nd.
UAlbany held Vermont to three field goals in the second quarter, adding a buzzer three by Tate to have a 41-17 lead at the break.
The UAlbany defense continued to hassle Vermont, holding the Catamounts without points in the opening six minutes with four steals and forcing five missed field goals. UAlbany continued to build on the lead as Tate and Fequiere each had a three-point play, with Carter adding three points then Tate hitting a layup in traffic to complete a 14-0 run, sending UAlbany up 52-17 with 4:01 left in the 3rd.
The Catamounts got a run together, scoring the next 11 points. Hixson extinguished Vermont’s streak with a three on the kickout, as Vermont added some late free throws to make it 55-31 after three.
Following an exchange with Cassandra Edwards netting a layup, Vermont got eight points in a row, including six from Butler, to pull within 18. An inbounds pass to Carter for the layup pushed UAlbany’s lead back to 20 at 59-39 with 6:36 left.
UAlbany held Vermont to just one field goal in a span of over six minutes, keeping a strong advantage the rest of the way. Tate scored her last four points in the final couple of minutes to secure her career-high as UAlbany took the 67-52 victory.
UAlbany will play its final regular season game at Hartford on Sunday, February 26th at 2 p.m.