UAlbany Menís Basketball Keeps Pace with SMU for 30 Minutes, Falls Late 71-53
DALLAS – The UAlbany men’s basketball team kept up with SMU, a top-10 nationally ranked program last season, for 30 minutes on Tuesday night, falling late 71-53 in Dallas.
UAlbany (7-6) came back from an early nine-point deficit to be down two at the break and trailed by one possession to SMU (10-3) with 11 minutes left in the second half. SMU pulled away with a 9-0 run and did not relinquish the lead the rest of the way.
“They are very good, I thought we did some very good things,” said UAlbany head coach Will Brown. “They are hard to guard, an experienced group, I just wish in the last minutes it was a tighter game.”
UAlbany was near-even to SMU in many categories, with the Mustangs having 20 points in the paint to UAlbany’s 18 and having a 14-10 edge in assists.
Joe Cremo led UAlbany with 15 points, including 12 in the second half, plus five rebounds. Cremo earns his fifth double digit scoring game in a row and 11th of the season.
For SMU, Semi Ojeleye finished with 28 points, making nine baskets and six free throws, with five rebounds. Jarrey Foster nearly had a double-double on 10 points and nine boards.
SMU came out and hit its first four shots, capped by a corner kick-out three by Jarrey Foster, to send the home team up 9-0 to begin. Nichols ended the streak with a long jumper, then stole the ball and raced down, leading to a Rowley putback. Marqueese Grayson hit a long three for a 7-0 run and pull UAlbany to 9-7 with six minutes gone.
UAlbany focused early efforts on going into the paint, seeing Rowley and Grayson add layups to keep UAlbany within one possession against the SMU jumpers. UAlbany took the lead as Travis Charles spun down the lane and hit a layup while fouled, adding the free throw for a 16-15 advantage 10 minutes in.
The UAlbany man-to-man defense helped keep SMU close, then at 18-18, the home team hit the next three shots, capped by a three from Shake Milton, for a 25-18 Mustangs advantage with 5:30 remaining in the 1st.
Dallas Ennema came in and started to even the odds, burying two straight threes, then blocking a second chance shot by SMU. A couple more Ojeleye baskets pushed SMU advantage back to seven, then Ennema hits his third straight three. UAlbany scored on its next two possessions, with Cremo hitting a deep three, then Nichols adding the jumper for a UAlbany lead. In the final seconds, another Ojeleye three gave SMU a 34-32 advantage into the half.
Each side was hot on shooting to begin the second half, starting with UAlbany quickly tying the game on a Nichols jumper. SMU got the next two baskets and kept the lead, but UAlbany kept on its tail as Cremo and Nichols kept hitting shots. A Cremo kick-out three from Travis Charles with 11:52 left pulled UAlbany back within a possession at 47-44.
At 49-46, three different scorers from SMU, primarily off free throws, gave the home team a quick 5-0 run and gave the Mustangs a 54-46 lead. Cremo stopped the run with a hop step jumper in the paint, but SMU pushed back with a 9-0 run in a three-minute span to go up 63-48 with 5:34 left to play.
Grayson drew a double team for the bounce pass to Rowley to pull UAlbany within 12 at 65-53 with 2:27 remaining. That is as close as UAlbany came, with SMU pulling away with late free throws and taking the game 71-53.
UAlbany will break for the holidays with its next game coming on Friday, December 30th at 7 p.m. tip against Columbia in New York City.