Albany, NY — On the court, the UAlbany Great Danes played the University of Hartford Hawks. And they played well. It was Senior Night. A joyous occasion, as always, but paired with a 18 point win? Fabulous.
But off the court, not many people knew that things weren’t as great for the Danes.
Sophomore guard David Nichols scored 21 points and had five rebounds in 35 minutes of action Saturday night. But you wouldn’t have know that his sister died Saturday morning. 24-year-old Cecilia Coleman died in Chicago after a long battle with leukemia.
UAlbany Head Coach Will Brown said Nichols will fly out of Albany to go home first thing Sunday morning, and that Nichols, “as anybody would”, is “struggling”. He wasn’t sure if Nichols would make in back in time for Albany’s America East quarterfinal rematch with Hartford on Wednesday and that frankly, he didn’t really care.
“He didn’t have to play tonight and he doesn’t have to come back for Wednesday,” Brown said. “Coaching’s easy. Things like this are the difficult things you have to deal with.”
Brown noted that Nichols first found out about his sister’s failing health after the team’s game this past Wednesday at Vermont, but Nichols and his family chose for David to stay and finish out the regular season. Brown said that Nichols is scheduled to return back to Albany Tuesday, but isn’t sure if that will happen depending on the family’s services.
However, with or without Nichols, Albany, who finishes the regular season 19-12, 10-6 in America East action, will have to prepare for a rematch with Hartford, 9-22 and 4-12, in the America East Tournament quarterfinals on Wednesday set for 7:30 PM at SEFCU Arena. Albany, with the win, solidified themselves as the #3 seed while Hartford was previously locked in the #6 seed before tonight’s matchup.
Albany will look to be on the opposite end of the quarterfinals as they were last year, when they suffered a shocking nine-point defeat to the hands of the Hawks on the home floor. This season, like last, saw Albany handle Hartford in both regular season meetings, including Albany’s Senior Day.
“It’s just the way the conference regular season played out,” Brown said postgame. “Last year is last year. It’s two new teams. Different year, same thing at stake. Kevin Durant was on the Oklahoma City Thunder last year. It’s last year.”
“It’s a new year and we got a new team,” sophomore guard Joe Cremo, who finished with game-highs 25 points and five assists to go with five rebounds. “We got to take them very seriously and make sure we’re ready to go when that game comes around.”