ALBANY — It can be hard coming back home after a tough loss to a high-end Division 1 program. The focus might not be there, players may still feel the fatigue and their heads might simply not be in the game and against a weaker opponent than the one before, they might be able to sneak up and steal a win. That is exactly what happened for the University of Albany man’s basketball team last night.
Four days ago, UAlbany took on Memphis down in Tennessee and fought hard until the end but ultimately fell to the Tigers 67-58. Last night, the Great Danes returned home to the SEFCU Arena to take on Canisius College out of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference. Canisius, who are a much weaker and less experienced team than UAlbany, hung around for the entire game and almost took down the Danes at home. However, UAlbany was able to hold on after a late Canisius push for the 68-65 win.
The first half for the Great Danes was pretty tough as they trailed for the majority of the time at the most being behind by nine points. Shooting woes haunted the Danes as they shot 48.3% (14-29), 25% from three-point range (1-4) in the first half. The team leaders, David Nichols and Joe Cremo struggled with Nichols only having 3 points on 1-8 shooting and Cremo was 3-6 for 7 points with zero three-pointers made. Cremo also went down with an apparent ankle injury while trying to turn to face a Canisius defender in the second half but was able to return and score nine second half points to help the Danes grab a lead and hold onto it.
Albany also had a hard time with the Canisius defense. Canisius smothered UAlbany ball handlers for the majority of the first half and UAlbany was unable to get any open shooters on the perimeter. Canisius was able to force six UAlbany turnovers while cashing in on eight fast break points to keep UAlbany on their heels and took a 35-34 advantage heading into halftime.
The second half was a full-out juggernaut between the two teams and both continued to play hard while poor officiating allowed neither team to gain momentum and pull away. UAlbany was able to go on a small run that allowed them to take the lead and hold onto it even with Canisius’s constant pressure and grit to try to make a comeback.
The story of the however was UAlbany’s Travis Charles. He was in no doubt the glue that was keeping this team from losing last night. With the other players struggling to get anything going offensively, Charles was able to make key shots to lead the team. He ended his night with 24 points on 10-16 shooting (63%) and 6 rebounds. He was able to grab two key offensive rebounds, get the put back bucket with a foul on both of those plays. Those plays and Charles’s phenomenal performance got the crowd back into the game and ultimately gave life to the Danes who were struggling shooting the ball most of the night.
However, even with his big night scoring the basketball, he praised his teammates for grinding the entire game and fighting until the end so they could secure a victory. “Whatever the team needs to win, other nights it’s Joe (Cremo), other nights it’s David (Nichols), it could a combination of all three of us,” Charles said. “Coach preaches to play unselfishly, reading what the defense gives you and whoever the hot hand is, just try to feed off of them throughout the game”.
Head coach Will Brown showed his displeasure the way his team was performing throughout the game but was understanding because of the travel they had four days prior. “I thought tonight was a struggle and I’m not surprised by it, we had some tough travel at the beginning of the week…this was a game where you just have to find a way to win” Brown stated after the game.
UAlbany improved their record to 11-2 on the season while Canisius dropped to 4-7.
UAlbany will now have four days off to prepare for their toughest test of the season as they travel to Kentucky to take on the Louisville Cardinals in their second Gotham Classic game.
That game will be held at the KFC Yum! Center in Louisville, Kentucky on Wednesday, December 20th. Tip-off for that game will be at 9 p.m.