ALBANY — Getting to the end of something is always a struggle. From finishing a really good book to completing a television series on Netflix; it never comes easy and life seems to come to a complete and utter stop once it is over.
Athlete’s have this feeling all the time especially when it comes to losing big games. Playoff games, championships games and elimination games gets athlete’s best performances and there can be a sense of urgency knowing that it could be their last game. Leaders step up, strengths are displayed, weaknesses are exposed and there is limited room for error.
This was the exact feeling for the University of Albany men’s basketball team, who saw their season end and hopes of making the 2018 NCAA tournament crushed right in front of their eyes. The Stony Brook Seawolves (13-18) came into SEFCU Arena on Saturday night and completely dominated UAlbany (22-10) and knocked them out of the America East Conference tournament.
The first half could be summarized in one word, toughness. Stony Brook came out and started off with a bang and played like they were the best team in the America East Conference. They came out and held UAlbany without a field goal for the first four minutes of the game while jumping out to an early 9-2 lead. They would continue this play and saw their lead grow to as much as 11 points. However, just like all season long, UAlbany showed its resilient side and refused to go down easily. After a large run by the Seawolves, the Danes responded a run of their own and eventually got the score close heading into halftime. For UAlbany, junior guard Joe Cremo lead the team with eight points and two rebounds while Stony Brook’s Elijah Olaniyi led the Seawolves with 11 points and three rebounds.
The game seemed to get away from UAlbany right as the second half began. Stony Brook went on a 12-5 run and the Danes quickly fell behind by double digits once again. However, once again UAlbany came roaring back led by Cremo. Cremo took over the game, scoring 16 of his 24 points in the second half. He hit two clutch back to back three-point shots that brought the Danes to within three points and ultimately getting as close as one before the Seawolves were able to pull away.
Stony Brook head coach Jeff Boals was pleased with the outcome of the game but did not discredit UAlbany’s effort to be resilient. “They [UAlbany] have great players, [Joe] Cremo, and [David] Nichols and I said it from day one that they are probably the best backcourt in the league.”
“We knew it was going to be a tough battle for 40 minutes…we knew coming in we had to play with a lot of toughness,” Boals also stated.
With UAlbany, a disappointed outcome especially because they were chosen to be atop of the conference in the beginning of season. “You have to make shots and I thought we really struggled shooting the ball,” head coach Will Brown addressing that UAlbany shot 32% (18-57) from the floor for the entirety of the game, “I thought when we made that run in the second half we finally started getting in a rhythm but we just didn’t get the job done.”
An emotional Joe Cremo when asked what he can take from this loss while moving forward to next year, was close to tears while taking the blame for the loss. “It’s just tough, when you have Greig [Stire], Travis [Charles] and those guys, they do so much for us day in and day out so when you can’t come through…I had a couple of shots in a row but I missed a couple of easy ones down the stretch…I’m just trying to take it as everything happens for a reason so I just have to come back a better player next year.”
UAlbany’s season is likely over even though they could have the opportunity to play in the College Basketball Invitational (CBI) or the CollegeInsider.com Postseason Tournament (CIT) but that will be up to the university. Stony Brook however, will travel to Vermont next Tuesday to play in the semifinal round against the Catamounts for a berth in the America East Conference tournament final.