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Danes Right The Ship Against River Hawks

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ALBANY N.Y. — “We lost to a very good basketball team tonight,” said UMass-Lowell men’s basketball coach Pat Duquette after suffering a 90-77 loss at the hands of University at Albany Wednesday night.

It was a much different outcome from when the two teams opened up conference play against one another just over three weeks ago. In that game it was the River Hawks who brought down the Great Danes 85-79, which feels like eons ago.

“They were a good basketball team when we beat them at our place. I think they’re an even better basketball team now,” Duquette said.

The UAlbany team the River Hawks squared off with in the beginning of January lost each of its first three games to start conference play. But a different UAlbany, an improved and more consistent team, beat UMass-Lowell in the Danes’ 5th win in its lax six gams.

“We’re taking baby steps in the right direction,” said Will Brown, UAlbany’s head coach. “We need to continue to play with a sense of urgency and get better.”

In the first matchup between sophomoresJoe Cremo and David Nichols combined for 42 points but didn’t receive much help from the rest of the team. On Wednesday the duo recorded 47 points while getting major contributions from Travis Charles (15 points) and Greig Stire, who finished one rebound shy of a double-double.

“There’s balance there and when we have balance we’re very difficult to guard,” Brown said.

The Danes didn’t run away with this game early. They earned it early in the second half as they came out of the break with only a 4-point lead. After starting the second half on a 12-3 run, Cremo, Nichols and Charles took over, scoring 38 of the team’s 51 second half points while the defense put the clamps on to secure the win.

“They came out and punched us in the nose in the second half which is discouraging,” Duquette said. “I don’t think we were ready for those first four minutes. You can get away with that with some teams, but not against teams as good as Albany.” Duquette even went as far to say after the game that UAlbany has what it takes to beat the University of Vermont, who currently hold an unblemished record at the top of the America East. UAlbany will square off against Vermont in Burlington on Feb. 22.

Before the Danes can prepare for that matchup, they have to face their longtime conference rival, Stony Brook.  On Jan. 2, Stony Brook defeated UAlbany in demoralizing fashion by going on an extraordinary 21-0 run in the waning minutes of the game to stun the  Danes in a 72-70 thriller. It shocked UAlbany and also the nation as it was featured on that night’s sportscenter for millions to see. No one has forgotten about the embarrassment and it’s been on everyone’s mind. The Danes’ collapse made an appearance on ESPN’s SportsCenter that night, not exactly the type of publicity UAlbany had hoped for.

“That was a tough loss and it was I’m guessing the biggest downfall in the history of this program,” Cremo said. “It was a rivalry game and you never want to lose a game like that. It stuck with us and it’s still in the back of our heads and is making us get better.”

The Danes continue on a spirited quest to prove to the America East they are a different team than the one who stumbled to three straight losses at the beginning of 2017.

“We need to become the best version of Albany that we can become. We need to understand what we do well to have success. And we need to understand where our struggles are,” Brown said.

The road to Brown’s goals continues  Saturday when UAlbany hosts Stony Brook at SEFCU Arena for the Big Purple Growl at 7 p.m. A larger-than-usual crowd is expected to attend the highly anticipated matchup.

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John C. Longton III is the sports editor of the Albany Student Press. He previously served as sports editor for Hudson Valley Community College's student newspaper, the Hudsonian. Longton also works for Townsquare Media, the Albany Patroons, and runs his own podcast weekly, Rated R Sports.

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