Going into Tuesday night’s matchup with the New Hampshire Wildcats at the SEFCU Arena, UAlbany Head Coach Will Brown expected the Wildcats to be pose a tough matchup to his squad early in conference play.
“Last year we won a combined 3 games by 5 points”, Brown said. “I didn’t expect this game to be any different. It was a tough, hard-nosed conference battle.”
And the Wildcats came through.
The 2 teams scrapped for the 45 minutes it required to take for one team to prevail on top of another, combining for 45 fouls, the 3rd most in a Danes game this season. Neither team allowed the other to get too far ahead, as the largest lead in the game was just 12, 24-12, by UNH with 5:30 left to go in the first half, before the Danes broke out on a 17-3 run to end half, led in that stretch by Evan Singletary, who seemed to take over the rest of the game from then on when the Danes could not seem to find someone to lead the charge, giving the Danes a 2 point advantage at the break.
And the 2nd half would be no different.
The teams scrapped back and forth, with the largest lead of the half being 7 with 12:06 to go, which would be their largest of the game. But, New Hampshire would not be far behind. As the teams traded baskets all the way down to the 7:27 mark, UNH went on a 17-8 run, taking their 6 point deficit to a 2 point lead with 2:34 left.
But the Danes, who have yet to lose on their home court this season, would not back down. Dallas Ennema, who entered the game with 4:08 to go after Greig Stire registered his 4th personal foul and had 5 of the final 9 points for the Danes in regulation, hit a big 3 to regain the lead, 66-65, with 2:11 to go.
Still, this game was far from over. After 3 free throws from the likes of Joe Bramanti and Daniel Dion gave them a 68-66 lead with 1:09 to go. But then Ray Sanders, who has stepped up his offensive role this season, drove to the lane and hit the game tying layup with 43 seconds to go. And after a missed UNH layup gave the Danes a shot to win the game, Evan Singletary, who has been known to make big plays in his UAlbany career including game winning shots at Vermont and Yale last season, got off a good look with 3 seconds left off a pick and roll from 3 on the right wing, but it was off, and the game went to overtime.
But “Mr. Make It Happen” wasn’t going to quit. He scored 6 of the Danes 12 points in the extra period off a pair of big 3 pointers, one giving the Danes a 73-71 lead with 2:36 to go and the other retaking the lead 76-73, after Iba Camara tied the game.
“It’s just about confidence,” said Singletary. “I know my teammates believe in me and when I got that ball in my hand and I see the basket and I see the clock running down I’m just thinking ‘I want my team to win the game’.”
“He needs to be taking those shots for us,” said Cremo. “He’s one of the best players in the league and he needs to be able to knock those shots down. We got all the confidence in the world in him. I was really happy for him to hit those shots. Couldn’t ask for anything more from him.”
But, once again, New Hampshire wouldn’t back down. Jaleen Smith hit a layup in transition off a Mike Rowley turnover with 48 seconds left, cutting the Dane lead back to one.
And the final 48 seconds was a heart rush for all 2,363 in attendance.
Joe Cremo turned the ball over out of a timeout, giving the visitors the opportunity to retake the lead. But Cremo would quickly make up for it, as Smith drove to the hoop and tried to quick out to Bramanti in the corner with 16 seconds left, but Cremo stepped in the passing lane and took it away, and 2 free throws from the hand of Ray Sanders with 13 seconds to go gave the Danes a 78-75 lead. Tanner Leissner, who had a game-high 21 points, missed the possible game tying 3, and 2 more free throws from the Scotia-Glenville native put the Wildcats, and the game away, prevailing with a 80-75 victory.
Singletary led the Danes with 21, the 7th time in his UAlbany career he’s finished with his career high, on 7-of-13 shooting including 5-of-9 from behind the arc, also pulling down 4 rebounds and leading the way with 4 assists.
“Overtime I’m just thinking we need to get this win,” Singletary said. “So if that’s me hitting a shot, if that’s me getting a big rebound, or that’s somebody else doing something, I don’t really care. I’m fine.”
“He’s made a lot of big shots in his career here so far,” Brown said of Singletary.
Sanders wasn’t far behind his backcourt teammate, finishing with 17 points, his 3rd best tally of the season, and had 4 rebounds to go with a pair of steals.
Cremo finished with 13 points and 9 rebounds, including going 7-for-8 from the free throw line, the 3rd consecutive game he’s tallied those numbers at the charity stripe. The 9 rebounds is a season high.
“I’m proud of my team,” Brown said postgame. “Good teams just find a way. They don’t ask how you won, they ask if you won. And we won.”
With the victory, the Danes improve to 14-4 (3-0 in the America East) and will take their 7 game winning streak on the 7-hour trek up to Maine, for a noon tipoff for Maine’s Commitment to Education Day on Friday.