UAlbany Men’s Basketball Grinds Out 69-59 Victory vs. Cornell to Enter League Play with Win Streak
ALBANY, N.Y. – With a 69-59 home victory over Cornell to begin the new year, the UAlbany men’s basketball team will begin America East play on a two-game winning streak.
With its opponent pulling two within two with under four minutes left, UAlbany (9-6) pulled away with a 9-0 run and held Cornell (3-11) without a field goal in the final 3:54 to finish with the win.
“We did what we needed to do to close out our non-conference season,” said UAlbany head coach Will Brown. “We were solid throughout the non-conference, but we have to get better and maintain our focus.”
“We just didn’t panic, and we knew if we got stops, we’d win the game,” said David Nichols. “It all starts on the defensive end.”
With the win, Will Brown is just two victories away from 250 in his coaching career at UAlbany. It is also the second straight year that UAlbany enters conference play with a winning record.
In addition, UAlbany improves to 7-1 against teams in the state of New York, including winning its last three contests.
All seven UAlbany players that participated scored at least six points, hit multiple field goals and grabbed multiple rebounds.
Nichols led UAlbany in scoring for the sixth time this season, picking up 16 points, five assists and three rebounds. Off the bench, Travis Charles shot 7-for-10 from the field for 14 points and six rebounds. Joe Cremo nearly got a double-double with 11 points, nine rebounds and three assists.
For Cornell, four players hit double digit scoring, led by Darryl Smith's 13 points. Troy Whiteside concluded with 12 points and six rebounds.
UAlbany focused early efforts on powering into the paint with layup attempts and drives. Sparked by two Greig Stire layups, UAlbany hit five of its first seven shots inside the arc for an early 10-2 advantage in the first four minutes.
Using high screens, Cornell found its early makes from three, hitting two to pull within four at 12-8. After an exchange of possessions, Dallas Ennema drained a three from the corner, then another from the other side on a kick-out. A missed Ennema three on the next chance was pulled down and put back by Charles to complete an 8-0 run and push UAlbany up 22-10 with 10 minutes left in the 1st.
UAlbany kept its lead with pressure defense, using free throws and layups from Cremo to keep its advantage. Cornell kept up its firing from three, while UAlbany continued to go to the basket. A couple of late free throws by Robert Hatter made it 34-26 UAlbany at the break.
Each side had similar strategies out of the locker room in the second half, relying on shots in the paint. After some early back and forth, layups by Mike Rowley and a turnaround floater from the paint by Charles made it 43-33 with 16:01 left in the 2nd.
Cornell kept close with a 6-2 run, started by a JoJo Fallas kickout three, to pull within six at 47-41. UAlbany stayed up with a layup and one by Rowley, then Ennema knocking down three free throws to build the Great Danes’ lead to 12 at 53-41 with 11 minutes to go.
The visitors again used a three to spark run, with a Darryl Smith three and five straight points from Hatter getting Cornell within three. Nichols stopped the run with a fast break layup, but another Hatter three from the corner brought Cornell to within two at 60-58 with under four minutes left.
After Charles hit a turnaround shot, UAlbany’s defense held Cornell without a field goal the rest of the way. Nichols added two free throws, then the next possession, Cremo delivered the dagger with a corner three with just over two minutes left. Two more Nichols free throws capped the run at 9-0 to push UAlbany up 69-58 with 1:45 remaining.
Nichols continued to hold down Cornell drawing a charge on Troy Whiteside to stop a Big Red fast break. UAlbany took the victory 69-59.
Conference play commences on Thursday as UAlbany heads east to take on UMass Lowell at 7 p.m. at the Costello Athletic Center.