Danes Dominate on Senior Night
Things get heated on Senior Night; UAlbany will host Hartford in #AEPlayoffs Wed. night.
When the college basketball calendar turns to March, momentum matters. The University at Albany men’s basketball team picked up some of it Saturday night with a dominant 80-62 win over Hartford on Saturday night.
Forwards Dallas Ennema and Mike Rowley, UAlbany’s two seniors, were honored before the opening tip-off in the annual Senior Night ceremony. Once the ceremony concluded, Ennema went to work. Hartford didn’t seem aware of what he could do from three-point range, and he made them pay for it.
“I got some clean looks,” Ennema said after the game. “I hit that first jump shot and it kind of gave me a little confidence. Then I hit the next one, and the next two were maybe a little questionable, but they went in.”
For Rowley, he closes out his final regular season as the latest in a successful group of Danes hailing from Australia. Like Ennema, Rowley also saw significant action on the court in each of his four seasons. “It’s always nice to be honored, especially with Dallas, who I’ve been here for four years with,” Rowley said. “It was nice, I got to meet his family and that was cool.” The 6’8” Sydney native, who spent his first two seasons on the same team playing with his older brother Sam, finished with six points on the night.
The Danes came out of the gates slowly, knocking down just one of their first seven shots. To end the early slump, they turned to their leading scorer, David Nichols. He answered the bell, getting to the basket at will and pulling off multiple acrobatic lay-ups. Nichols finished with 21 points and tacked on five rebounds
“David is wired to score. He’s aggressive. Believe it or not, he’s absolutely explosive,” head coach Will Brown said of Nichols. “But I’m going to ban him from dunking moving forward,” Brown joked. Nichols showcased that explosive ability all night long in getting to the hoop, but he couldn’t throw down a wide-open dunk late in the second half with the Danes up big.
As the game went on, it was guard Joe Cremo that took matters into his own hands. The sophomore blended solid scoring with slick passing, finishing with 25 points (18 in the second half) and five assists. Cremo’s dominance wasn’t limited to the offensive end. He wreaked havoc on defense, collecting three steals and a block.
Together, the three-headed monster of Cremo, Nichols, and Ennema accounted for 57 of the Danes 80 points on Saturday. “On offense, [we were] moving the ball and sharing it with each other. Luckily, some of my shots were falling today,” Cremo said of his dazzling offensive performance Saturday.
The Danes made life very difficult for Hartford on offense, holding them to 36.1 percent from the field. Hartford star Jalen Ross, who entered Saturday night as the conference leader in points per game (20.2), could not get going. He finished with just nine points on 4 of 15 shooting.
Things got testy in the second half, as Hartford’s Hassan Attia got into it with UAlbany’s Travis Charles when the Danes held a 20-point lead. Attia invaded Charles’ space and Charles didn’t back down. Attia’s teammate, Jack Hobbs, stepped in and pushed Charles, prompting both benches to run on to the court. The skirmish was broken up by the coaching staffs and officiating crew. After further review by the officials, Attia and Charles were slapped with technical fouls.
Despite the loss, Hartford head coach John Gallagher remained confident that his team could exact revenge in the first round of the America East playoffs. UAlbany is set to host Hartford again on Wednesday night in the quarterfinals.
“We’re going to be the most excited team coming in here Wednesday night,” Gallagher said. “We’re a team that has vastly improved since January. We have to string together 40 minutes–that’s going to be the key”.
Last March, it was Hartford that came to SEFCU Arena and shocked the Danes in the quarterfinals, dashing their hopes for a conference title. It’s a loss that Brown says “bothers [him] to this day.”
When asked how he would prepare the Danes for the playoffs, Brown said, “It’s the conference tournament. It’s March. Everybody’s going to be excited to play. You know what? I hope his team’s excited to play, and I’ll relay that message to my team.”