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Danes Edge Bulldogs with Big Second Half

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ALBANY, N.Y. — It took a while for the Great Danes to find their rhythm, but once they got going nothing could stop them as the UAlbany men’s basketball team defeated the Bryant Bulldogs 84-68 in front of a crowd of 2,012 Wednesday night at SEFCU Arena in the opening round of the Houzz Gotham Classic.

The game got off to a slow start as the Danes and the Bulldogs went into the break tied at 37 a piece in what seemed to be a pedestrian dog fight. Both teams played sluggish in the first 20 minutes and there wasn’t much offense being played, which was reminiscent to the Columbia game where the Danes could only muster 29 points in the first half.

There were however seven lead changes and eight ties in the first half as neither team could quite pull away, but the second half was the story for the Great Danes.

“[In the first half] We were just a step slow,” said UAlbany head coach Will Brown. “It’s hard to win at this level and you can’t take it for granted.”

The Danes might have overlooked the Bulldogs in the first period. Bryant came into the game with a 1-7 record and UAlbany played down to their opponent until they headed to the locker room for intermission.

Coming out of the break David Nichols hit a quick pull-up jumper from the free throw line and then made a three-pointer on the next trip down the court setting the tone for the Danes, who went on a 7-0 run and didn’t trail at anytime in the second half.

Nichols and backcourt mate Joe Cremo took over the game in the second half and scored a combined 31 points in the last 20 minutes alone and showed Bryant why the Danes are 9-1 on the season.

Nichols and Cremo checked out of the game with just under two minutes to play to a much deserved standing ovation. The duo combined for 41 of UAlbany’s 84 points and in the late stages of the game looked like one of the best backcourts in the nation. They shot a combined 63% from the field and both hit three 3s.

“My teammates did a great job at finding me while I was open coming off of screens,” said Nichols.

This was the first of four games for the Great Danes in the Houzz Gotham Classic, a tournament in its sixth year that selects five teams from across the nation to play four games apiece. The other three teams that are in the tournament that UAlbany will face are Loiusville, Memphis and Siena.

They play Siena on Saturday in the yearly Albany Cup and this year it will have a little more meaning behind it as both teams are jockeying for position in the Gotham Classic. The Great Danes have won five out of the last six contests between Siena, including a 81-72 win at SEFCU Arena last year.

“We are just trying to get better in practice every day and try to take things one game at a time,” said Cremo when asked about their matchup with their crosstown rival.

This game has a big meaning to the Capital District as local battle lines have been drawn.

“We want to win the game obviously for our fans, our university and our uptown community,” said Brown. “But all of our focus and energy is not going to be on Siena. It’s going to be on how do we improve Albany.”

The game slated for this Saturday at the Times Union Center and will tip off around 7 p.m. and it what many locals are coining as the “Capital District Super Bowl.”

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