ALBANY — It took a scare from a young Siena team, but UAlbany held on to claim their second straight Albany Cup at the Times Union Center Saturday night by a final tally of 74-69.
The Danes had owned a double-digit lead at the half, and it was looking as if they would cruise to a victory. However, in the second half it became a game of runs, with Siena having to battle back from large deficits, and even took the lead for a short time with less than four minutes to play.
The comeback came on a crazy sequence as Siena was down by 11 with seven minutes to play, but a quick 15-2 run by the Saints allowed them to grab a 65-63 lead, finished off by back-to-back three pointers from Ahsante Shivers that put them back in.
Albany re-took the lead shortly after, courtesy of a pair of free throws off the hands of Joe Cremo. Siena tied the game back up with just under three minutes to play on a shot from freshman Prince Oduro.
UAlbany took the lead for the final time with just under two-and-a-half minutes to play as Travis Charles scored, and they never gave up the lead after that.
“You learn. We were up, had a good stop, didn’t get a rebound. Then we were up; then it was tied. We didn’t front the post, which we talked about doing. But that’s (a) high-level game,” Siena head coach Jimmy Patsos said.
UAlbany head coach Will Brown said of the final minutes, “I told our guys (with) under four minutes to go, I said ‘This is where really good teams maintain their composure, play with poise, and finish the job,’ and I thought we came out in the last 3:50 after letting them back in the game, I thought our guys did a real good job making plays down the stretch.”
Both Siena and UAlbany held off some of the other teams’ strong players. Devonte Campbell was held to just seven points for the Danes, and Nico Clareth of Siena only finished with 10 points.
However, Charles and Cremo were not to be matched for Siena as the duo combined for 35 points. Charles had 19 points on the night, matching his career-high. He also went 7-12 shooting.
“Sometimes teams do whatever it takes to take away the useful guys. I feel like that’s how I get to open up and become a big presence on the offensive end,” Charles said.
Siena did the same to David Nichols as he had an off night, going 5-17 and finishing the night with 12 points. The Saints put freshman Roman Penn on him nearly the entire game, and he did not allow Nichols to get into a zone.
“We took away Nichols, and we took away Cremo to a degree. In other words, we had to gamble a little bit,” Patsos said.
Penn was also effective on offense with a career-high 15 points and was one of four Saints to hit double figures on the night.
As of Saturday night, there is no agreement in place for the annual game between the schools to continue next year, but both schools plan to meet in January to discuss the matter.
UAlbany, who hosted the game for the first time last year, wants to have it at their home arena every other year as a rotation.
Just minutes after the game concluded, Brown took to Twitter with a simple message; “#SEFCU18.” He has long been an advocator of a potential rotation.
“As the head coach at Albany, I’d love for there to be a game next year,” Brown said. “That’s above me. I’m just a coach that has an opinion on everything.”
With the victory, Albany improves to 10-1 on the season. They will play again on Tuesday, taking on Memphis before returning home for a tilt against another MAAC foe, Canisius on Saturday, December 16. The two games will begin at 9 p.m. and 7 p.m., respectively.
Siena falls to 2-7 on the year. They will kick off a three-game road trip on Monday night against Vermont, and will also play Bryant and Memphis as part of the Gotham Classic, a round-robin tournament both Siena and UAlbany are taking part in this year. Saturday’s game was part of the tournament. They will return home on Friday, December 22, taking on Holy Cross in their final nonconference game. That one will begin at 7 p.m.