UAlbany Menís Basketball Comeback Ends Just Short, Falls vs. Grand Canyon 82-77 at Mohegan Sun
UNCASVILLE, Conn. – The UAlbany men’s basketball team came back from down 15 to pull within one possession against Grand Canyon, but could not complete the rally and fell 82-77 in the first of two games at the Mohegan Sun.
UAlbany (2-2) trailed by 15 points to Grand Canyon (1-2) with about nine minutes remaining. The Great Danes rallied and pulled to within two points with possession in the final minute, seeing a David Nichols floater come up short. GCU rebounded and scored the other way, not relinquishing the lead in the final seconds.
“We need to play better defense, and our best players have to embrace the defensive side of the ball; when you play a team like Grand Canyon, you have to play your best,” said UAlbany head coach Will Brown. “The kids fought like heck to get back into the game against a good basketball team.”
This was the third game of the Naismith Tip-Off Classic for UAlbany and first in the Springfield Bracket of the Mohegan Sun. UAlbany finishes its tournament play against Brown tomorrow in Uncasville at 8 p.m.
Joe Cremo notched a season-high 24 points, one shy of his career-high and including 9-for-11 on free throws, and six rebounds. David Nichols did set a career-high off 23 points, adding five steals and three assists. Mike Rowley grabbed 10 rebounds, adding four points and three assists.
For Grand Canyon, DeWayne Russell had a double-double of 30 points and 10 assists. Joshua Braun concluded with 18 points and eight rebounds.
Grand Canyon looked to pick up the tempo early, and fired away from downtown. At 8-5, Nichols pick-pocketed GCU and sprinted for a layup, then stole the ball again and passed off to Grayson for the three-point shot and score. Grayson added another transition basket as UAlbany led 12-8 early.
The offenses cooled down in the coming minutes. UAlbany had a scoring drought as at 14-11, GCU went on a 9-2 run to lead 20-16. After Costa Anderson hit a long jumper, GCU hit a pair of wing threes for a 26-18 advantage with under eight in the first.
GCU continued its fast break style, building its lead to 36-23 with under four minutes in the first with a couple of layups in transition. UAlbany responded with two Mike Rowley free throws, a Dallas Ennema three off a screen and a Cremo drive and score for a 7-2 run to pull the Great Danes within eight.
Cremo countered a GCU three with one of his own, but late free throws in the remainder of the first half gave GCU a 44-33 advantage at the break.
Into the second half, UAlbany struck in the paint with Nichols and Rowley to cut into the deficit to seven. As GCU continued to play fast, UAlbany kept pace and got to within seven again with a layup and one by Nichols to make it 49-42 with 16:30 remaining in the 2nd. Nichols added another three-point play to pull the Great Danes to six at 51-45 at the first second half media.
GCU got a 7-0 run in a two-minute span. Again Nichols came in with a basket to end the streak, with Travis Charles adding a free throw.
Down 64-51, Cremo scored twice in a row, off a layup from a feed from Nichols and another jumper, to get UAlbany back within nine. GCU got the next three baskets to go back ahead by 15 with 7:33 remaining.
UAlbany fired back after a timeout as Ennema began a run with a top of the arc three. Cremo went on a personal 7-0 run, including two baskets and three free throws, getting UAlbany to a 70-65 deficit at 5:45 left in 2nd.
The sides started to trade points, with Russell and Nichols exchanging layups. After GCU got to a seven-point lead, Cremo hit two free throws, Nichols earned a steal and two free throws, then Cremo added another free throw to pull UAlbany with two at 76-74 with 1:30 left.
UAlbany held on defense and pushed the other way. A Nichols floater came just short, then GCU went the other way and hit and three-pointer and one. A late Nichols layup brought UAlbany back to within a possession, but a couple of late GCU free throws sealed the game. GCU took the win 82-77.
UAlbany will return to the Mohegan Sun Arena tomorrow to take on Brown for an 8 p.m. tip.