DANES LEAVE HAPPY VALLEY WITH A SMILE
STATE COLLEGE – The UAlbany men’s basketball team upset the Penn State Nittany Lions on the road 87-81 in the opening game of the season playing in the Naismith Hall of Fame Tip-Off Tournament Saturday earning their first win against a Big 10 opponent in school history.
Albany was originally scheduled to play Duke, but had to pencil in Penn State last minute because of a statewide travel ban to North Carolina issued by Governor Cuomo for all NYS agencies due to NC’s LBGT laws. In both cases Albany was outmatched and were supposed to lay down and be a doormat, but don’t tell that to the Great Danes who forgot to play their dog role in Happy Valley.
“We didn’t come here just to play in a nice arena and get some money out of it and all that stuff. We are here to win,” said Albany Head Coach Will Brown after the game. “As a coach that’s your mindset and you hope the players feel the same way.”
UAlbany only trailed once in the game after Penn State scored the first basket and led 2-0. From there the Danes seamed to own the first 20 minutes and took a 16-point lead into halftime.
The Nittany Lions made it close in the second half erasing a 19 point Great Dane lead narrowing it down to only a two possession game and seemed as if they had the momentum when the crowd got behind them late in the game.
“We knew Penn State was going to make a run in the second half,” said Brown. “It’s a great tool to learn, but I’m just proud we weathered the storm late in the game. We had some guys step up and play really well. But we can’t be satisfied.”
Joe Cremo led Albany with 22 points and 10 rebounds playing all but three minutes of the game. With about a minute left and UAlbany only leading by four Cremo, the 2015 America East Rookie and Sixth Man of the year, split through the Penn State defense, knifed his was to the basket and kissed a layup high off the glass putting the Danes up by six all but sealing the deal for a major upset.
“It’s a good start for us for sure, but like coach said we can’t be satisfied,” said Cremo after the game. “I tried to tell these guys that every day. You can’t be satisfied if you want to be good.”
Cremo and company are trying to adjust to a new team where they lost three perimeter starters from a year prior.
Cremo, David Nichols and Dallas Ennama were trying to fill that void and against the Nittany Lions did a good job combining for 61 of the team’s 87 points. They played unselfish basketball and the Danes shot 50% from the floor. Albany also outrebounded Penn State 43-26, which led to a lot of second chance opportunities.
“They executed really well. They were tough. They were physical,” said Penn State Head Coach Pat Chambers after the game. “I give coach Brown and his staff credit for doing a really good job.”
Chambers has coached against UAlbany in the past when he was the head coach for Boston University from 2009-’11, who at the time also played in the America East Conference.
“I’m sure they didn’t realize how hard Albany played. I did because I coached against them six years ago in the America East (Conference),” said Chambers.
“Definitely a big road win for us. Especially with having five or six new guys. And I thought David (Nichols), who sat behind Evan (Singletary) last year for basically the whole year, did a great job,” said Brown.
Even though it was the team’s first ever win against a Big 10 opponent the Great Danes have come up in big spots like this in the past winning on the road at both Utah in 2006 and Washington in 2012. Brown had his team prepared, but still was unsure how they would react once the lights were on and the ball was tipped.
“When you walk into shoot around and they all break out their phones and takin pictures of the arena and stuff like that you start to worry as a coach ya know?” said Brown.
But the Danes didn’t seem intimidated and started their season on a high note. Monday will be an even bigger test for UAlbany as they travel to Cincinnati to take on the Bearcats in their second game in the Naismith Hall of Fame Tip-Off Tournament.
The Great Danes have their first home game this Wednesday at 8:00 p.m. as they play host to the Oneonta Red Dragons before picking back up with the Naismith Tournament this weekend at Mohegan Sun.
The team started off the season in the right direction and coach Brown and company want to build off this major win, “As a coach, first game I’m proud of these guys, but I can’t wait to get back to work and start to help these guys get better moving forward.”