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Danes defeat Highlanders in home opener

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By Zachary Gaylis
Sports Editor
asp.sports@gmail.com

The University at Albany
Men’s basketball team home
opener resulted exactly how the
Great Danes had hoped for, with
a win. The Danes defeated the
New Jersey Institute of Technology
by a final score of 71-65 on
Tuesday night at SEFCU Arena.
The Danes lost to the Highlanders
during their previous outing,
which fortunately for the Danes
was only an exhibition.
Danes starting point guard
D.J Evans shared his best career
performance, scoring a career
high 20 points and keeping a
struggling Danes offense in the
game when others were looking
to find their rhythm. Evans was
quite frank and simple about his
break-out performance.
“It feels good, just do what I do
to help the team and let the game
come to me, “ said Evans.
“I told him I need to get at least
10 points a game from him. He’s
a pretty good player, a tough kid,
and has a chance to play well
this year,” said head coach Will
Brow.
NJIT did not take its foot off
the pedal at all however, using its
athleticism to speed up the game
and keep the Danes defense off
its feet. The Danes found it difficult
to penetrate the Highlanders
zone defense, and were forced
to take many 3-point field goals
instead of attacking the rim and
getting easy baskets.
Coach Will Brown did a lot of
experimenting with his rotations,
digging deep into his bench and
putting five new faces on the
floor all at once. This proved
to be detrimental more so than
beneficial, and as Coach Brown
put it, “We base our players performances
on a plus minus scale,
and all of the bench players
ended with minuses at the end of
the first half, so I knew I had to
rely more on my starters to stay
on the court and win the game,”
he said.
Newly recruited freshmen
Anders Haas and Michael Rowley,
younger brother of Junior
Forward Sam Rowley, both
struggled to find their grooves
offensively.
Anthony Odunsi, a junior transfer
from Texas, stepped in nicely
as Evans’ backup and helped run
the Danes offense.
With six minutes remaining,
NJIT was able to pull away from
the Danes, going on an 11-2 run
to give them a 25-16 lead.
The Highlanders did an
excellent job of moving the
ball around and getting quality
open looks around the basket.
However, many of these looks
failed to fall in the basket and the
Highlanders were unable to get
many second chance points, a
testimony to the Danes’ exceptional
rebounding.
The game would continue to go
back and forth, as both sides kept
hitting big shots that would keep
their teams within striking range
of each other.
Both teams took care of the
ball, where the turnover battle
was slightly in NJIT’s favor at
4-3. The Highlanders would
walk into the locker room holding
a 33-29 lead.
The second half saw both
teams come out aggressively, as
both teams were determined to
steal this game from the other.
Danes sophomore guard Peter
Hooley found his rhythm early,
converting on three of his six
3-point field goals and getting to
the free throw line.
Hooley is coming off an
impressive freshmen season and
will be heavily relied upon to
contribute consistently to the
team. He would go on to finish
the game with 13 points and
two important steals. John Puk
struggled all game to put points
on the board, but finally snapped
out of his funk, scoring off a nice
post move and rejecting Highlander
guard Terrence Smith’s
layup attempt.
The Highlanders maintained a
consistent tight cushion for most
of the second half, yet the Danes
continued to show poise and
eventually came back to tie the
game at 59-59 with just under
five minutes remaining. Highlanders
guard Damon Lynn, who
converted on four of eight three
point attempts, nailed a huge
right corner three to give NJIT a
62-59 lead.
With just under 30 seconds
remaining, the Danes would
need to score the ball to put the
game away. Sam Rowley found
himself wide open right behind
the free throw line where Evans
would dish it to him for what
would be the nail in the coffin for
the Highlanders.
When asked about how the ball
felt leaving his hands, Rowley,
with a grin said, “Pretty surprised
it went in. It honestly felt terrible
leaving my hands.”
The Danes defense was superb,
forcing the Highlanders to eight
second half turnovers, two of
which came in the last two
minutes and each time giving the
Danes the lead. The Danes meanwhile
only turned it over four
times the whole second half. A
definite positive to take from the
game is that the Danes’ defense
will be an integral part of the
team’s success this season.

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