ALBANY — Nothing brings more fans out to the SEFCU Arena on a Saturday night than the Big Purple Growl game. Every year fans come out for a weekend full of food, activities and of course basketball.
Prior to the game, the Ferocious Feast was held where fans young and old could come and enjoy a buffet-style dinner. During these festivities fans received game tickets for the Big Purple Growl game to top off the night.
The University of Albany men’s basketball team played their first game in a week and their first game back home at the SEFCU Arena in over two weeks and they did not disappoint. UAlbany (18-7, 6-4) came out against the University of New Hampshire Wildcats (9-15, 5-5), a team that they lost to on January 6 in Durham, NH, came out with a vengeance and sense of purpose, beating them 83-74 in front of a sold-out crowd. The Danes shot the ball extremely well in the first couple of minutes, scoring on six of their first seven possessions and getting their lead as high as 12 points. However, the Wildcats refused to go down easily. They would come back with a stretch of three-point baskets by Evan Horn, Jordan Reed and John Ogwuche to get the lead down to one.
The Danes would fight right back to get the lead back up to five right before halftime. Joe Cremo led all scorers with 11 points at the half while Greig Stire chipped in eight. David Nichols also did not disappoint as he got going early with two three point baskets to help the team to that halftime lead.
The second half began a slightly different way. The Wildcats came out guns blaring and the once 12 point Great Danes lead was cut all the way down to one. They eventually took the lead but were unable to make that definite run to keep the Danes at bay.
That was the difference from their previous meeting up in Durham. In that game, New Hampshire made multiple scoring runs and kept their defense tight on the Danes and were able to keep them down. Last night’s game was not a repeat offense. UAlbany fought hard and looked pretty solid on the defensive side of the ball throughout the entire game. Their game plan on defense looked pretty clear as their main focus was to keep New Hampshire’s best player, Tanner Leissner, away from the ball and ultimately not allowing him anywhere near the rim.
“I thought they were going to test us defensively, so our goal today was to limit (Tanner) Leissner as much as we could and do a better job at defending the three-point line than we did up in New Hampshire” head coach Will Brown said after the game.
Joe Cremo finished his night with 31 points, six rebounds and three assists which was a career high in points and Davis Nichols got hot late as well and dropped 18 points. Nichols, who celebrated his 1,000 career points prior to the tip-off of the game, talked about how much more comfortable he felt in last night’s game compared to the game up in Durham. “I was just trying to play through the offense the best I could and take all the smart shots.”
UAlbany now will have their second face-off against the University of Vermont next this Thursday February 8th. All of the focus after last nights game was on the Vermont game. Will Brown was very excited for the upcoming game and stated that his players were ready for the biggest game of the year.
“We’re really excited about Thursday. I believe it’s a nationally televised game on ESPNU and I think we’re the only team in the conference that’s excited to play Vermont because all these other teams are already beat before the game even starts,” he said.
Tip off for that game will be at 7 p.m. on ESPNU.