ALBANY — Rivalry games are the kind of games where players take their play to the next level and perform better just to show up the other team. These kinds of games are always intense and gives fans sweaty palms, makes them hold their breath and they can never leave the edge of their seats. These kind of games never disappoint.
Rivals do not like each other, but respect each others game. Rivals will go toe to toe for the entire game to out perform their counterpart. Rivals will fight until the final whistle blows and will do anything and everything to allow their respected team beat the other.
The University of Albany men’s basketball team and Stony Brook University are those kinds of games.
The two men’s basketball programs that have the best overall records in the America East from the beginning (UAlbany .576 record and Stony Brook .543 record) faced off last night for the first time this season. The SEFCU Arena was rocking with 2,288 screaming fans and the players were hyped up and ready to play.
Stony Brook came into this match-up undefeated in the America East while UAlbany were still looking for their first win in conference play this season. Things would turn in the right direction for the Great Danes however, they would come out victorious in this match-up and notched their first win. UAlbany (13-5, 1-2) cleaned up both sides of the ball and had much better communication throughout the game and was able to get back to their winning ways. Stony Brook (7-10, 2-1) had their worst defensive outing thus far in conference play and was unable to keep up with UAlbany’s pace and intensity especially during the second half.
David Nichols returned to the David Nichols of previous games as he started off the game hot. He dropped three three point shots while tallying 11 points at the half. Joe Cremo and Greig Stire each had seven points a piece. The Danes would also finish the first half ahead for the first time in two games. They led Stony Brook 33-29.
The second half started and it was a UAlbany juggernaut from the get go. UAlbany continued to shoot the ball well as they went 53% from the floor while shooting 67% from three. David Nichols finally brought his fiery play back and ended his slump. He scored a total of 19 points on 7-12 shooting while shooting 83% (5-6) from three-point range. Travis Charles also emerged and tallied 20 points while grabbing three rebounds. Everything that Charles touched seemed to end up in the basket for UAlbany. He and Nichols carried the team for the most part throughout the game with Cremo and Stire doing everything to help the Danes pull out the victory.
After the game, Charles reiterated on what it means to be a leader and having to step up in big spots during the game. “In the second half, we played like we had a match lit under you know what…it has to be like that all the time, it can’t just be when the coaches get on us, it has to come from within. Me, Dave [Nichols], Joe [Cremo] and Greig [Stire] as captains we have to make sure we reiterate that message when the coaches are gone.”
Head coach Will Brown after the game stated how much this game, knowing that it was a rivalry game, how much it meant for the players to come out with the victory. “Apparently during the lay up lines and warm ups they [Stony Brook] were chanting “roadkill”, so I guess they thought we were going to get stuck in their muffler today and our guys took that personally.”
This was the best UAlbany has played in weeks and the hard work they put in during the last couple of practices before last night’s game really showed. The mistakes on defense in the prior games against Hartford and New Hampshire were close to non-existent and better ball movement on offense opened up better shots which the team fully took advantage of.
The UAlbany men’s basketball team will now make the long trip to Orono, Maine to take on the University of Maine Black Bears on Saturday January 13. UAlbany will be looking to even their conference record at 2-2 and climb right back into the race for the America East regular season crown.
Tip off for that game will be at 12 pm ET