ALBANY — The road to March starts now as teams begin playing within their own conferences. Games get harder, the intensity picks up and every player shows off their skills to help their respected teams reach the top of the conference.
Conference play has finally arrived for the University of Albany Great Danes men’s basketball team as they took on America East Conference foe the University of Hartford Hawks last night at the SEFCU Arena. UAlbany has been a dominant force while playing at home so far this season, but they looked slightly flat coming into the game last night. They followed up that slow start with continuous poor play and took their first home loss and first conference loss of the season 72-64.
UAlbany (12-4, 0-1) had a tough time matching Hartford’s pace during the first half as they simply could not defend anything Hartford threw at them. Hartford (8-7, 1-0) made simple cuts through the paint and executed back door cuts to perfection to put the Danes on their heels. Their passing was spot on which led to open three-point shots with Hartford hitting seven of them and shooting 70% from distance.
The second half started just how the first half ended. Hartford came out hot once again, shooting well and playing aggressively especially on the defensive side of the ball. A ten point deficit quickly turned into a twenty point hole and it was starting to look like the game was becoming a blow out. However, mid way through the second half, UAlbany started to pick up the pace and slowly clawed their way back into the game.
David Nichols and Joe Cremo started to get open along the perimeter and began hitting key three-point shots. Cremo finished with 23 points while shooting 50% from three while Nichols added 20 points. The team also started to pick up the pace on the defensive side of the ball. With the increased intensity and the offense starting to click, that twenty point lead was gone with around two minutes left in the game.
However, poor play in the final minute, missed shots, turnovers and an awful foul called on a three-point shot attempt allowed Hartford to pull away and ultimately take the victory.
Hartford head coach John Gallagher was pleased with the victory but humble saying that his team did not celebrate in the locker room after the victory. “We gave up a twenty point lead…you have so much you can build off of but you still win the game…we went right in [the locker room] and we didn’t even celebrate, we had a great way in the post game there and it was like, how did that even happen?”
Gallagher stated that the team took their foot off the gas for a stretch while UAlbany made a comeback but they were able to close them out because they kept fighting hard on both sides of the court.
UAlbany and head coach Will Brown had a different mentality after the game. After giving praise to Hartford for playing a phenomenal game, Brown stated “Obviously I’m disappointed, in myself as the head coach, this is the first conference game of the year and I thought we were ready. I thought we’d be excited to play and for thirty minutes that was not the team I’ve become accustomed to seeing on a daily basis.”
Brown continued on by taking full responsibility for the loss and he will correct everything that needs to be corrected in order for the team to grow and be ready for the next game.
This loss that occurred last night should be a real wake up call for UAlbany as they should be aware that they are considered the team to beat but it will not be a cake walk through the conference. They will have to fight hard every single game and come out with a sense of purpose in order to finish a top of the America East conference and earn a top seed in the conference tournament coming in March.
The UAlbany men’s basketball team will now travel and take on New Hampshire on Saturday January 6 and look to bounce back and get back into the win column.
Tip off for that game will be at 1 p.m. ET at Lundholm Gymasium on the campus of the University of New Hampshire.