Great Danes Reach Milestones in Victory
Will Brown wins his 250th at UAlbany, becoming the third coach in America East history to do so.
The outside world may see head coach Will Brown’s 250th win as an outstanding accomplishment. But for Brown, Thursday night’s 84-65 victory over visiting Binghamton didn’t feel particularly special.
It didn’t feel that way for the players either.
“We’re 2-3,” said UAlbany sophomore guard Joe Cremo. “No one is too happy.”
Binghamton (9-11, 0-5) traveled to SEFCU Arena with the hope of picking up its first conference win. The Bearcats hung around for the majority of the game until UAlbany pulled away in the latter part of the second half.
Binghamton started out in a 1-3-1 zone to force the Great Danes to shoot from the outside as UAlbany is not known as a prolific shooting team.
Unfortunately for head coach Tommy Dempsey’s ballclub, UAlbany shot extremely well from the floor in the first half. UAlbany’s guards consistently found the open spots in the middle of the floor and along the baseline to expose the defense. UAlbany made 70.8 percent of its shots, the highest of any half for the Danes this season.
The Danes made 5 of 6 from beyond the arc in the first half, including a perfect 3 for 3 from Cremo, who finished with 22 points for the evening. Sophomore guard David Nichols continued his breakout season, scoring 25 points to lead all players. He sank 75 percent of his shot attempts and also finished a perfect 5 for 5 from the free-throw line. He added five assists and did not turn the ball over.
Brown has come to expect high-scoring performances from the Cremo/Nichols tandem, but it was the first-half contributions of redshirt junior forward Travis Charles that overshadowed their performance. He scored 12 of his 14 points in the first half, mostly via the mid-range jump shot.
Charles consistently found the empty pockets in the zone and exploited its weaknesses. “The mid-range shot against our zone is what we give up,” Dempsey said. “Mid-range is a soft spot and I think it’s a shot that players in college basketball don’t make anymore.”
Except for Charles, who drained all of his first six shot attempts.
“He just killed us. That really busted up our zone in the first half and I thought that was the difference in the game to be honest with you,” Dempsey said.
For UAlbany, who currently sits in sixth place in the America East Standings, scoring contributions from players other than Cremo and Nichols will be crucial moving forward.
Binghamton trailed UAlbany by nine points entering the second half but failed to regain the lead after briefly holding it in the first half. Junior forward Willie Rodriguez, who played through a nagging hamstring injury that sidelined him for the first 10 weeks of the season, came out firing in the second half, scoring a quick 12 points to cut the UAlbany lead to as low as seven. He finished with a team-high 21 points on the night but was forced to exit the contest with 5:27 remaining because of an apparent lower-body injury.
The Bearcats amped up the full-court pressure to force the Danes to turn the ball over. But with 8:38 left the speedy Nichols broke the pressure and penetrated the defense, throwing up a floater over two defenders while getting fouled. He made the basket and the following free throw to put the Danes ahead 66-49, a soul-crushing blow that fired up the Danes and the crowd of 2,308 at SEFCU Arena.
The Danes finished shooting 64.8 percent, a season-high mark. UAlbany did so without the help of sharp-shooter Dallas Ennema, who missed the game with a stomach bug. Marqueese Grayson was also replaced in the starting lineup by Devonte Campbell, a defensive-minded player who entered the game scoring 2.8 points per game. He finished with 11 for the evening. “It’s great when we have good individual games, but a 40-minute team effort is better,” Nichols said.
UAlbany will need more contributions from guys like Charles and Campbell as they look to unseat the undefeated Vermont from the top of the conference. UAlbany will host Maine on Sunday afternoon as the second installment of a three-game home stand.
The quick turnaround means there won’t be much time to celebrate Brown’s 250th victory. He knows it’s a long road ahead for his team if they hope to contend for an America East title.
“We lost three all-conference guards from last year [Peter Hooley, Evan Singletary, and Ray Sanders],” said Brown. “We don’t want to rebuild this year—we want to win. And we can. We just don’t have a lot of room for error this year.”
“There are high expectations for this program. We’re not going to win because previous teams have won.”
So will he celebrate the milestone?
“We’ve won 250 games since I’ve been here,” said Brown. “But I just think, let’s go win 250 more.”
The Danes will begin work on that Sunday before hosting the undefeated Vermont on Wednesday evening.