Nichols Give Danes Emotional Lift
ALBANY, N.Y. — David Nichols did something on the basketball court that no other University at Albany player has ever done at the Division I level. Only one other Great Dane did it…and that was back in 1957.
Nichols scored 40 points in a game to lead the No. 3 UAlbany Great Danes to a blowout 100-71 victory over No. 6 Hartford in the opening round of the America East Tournament.
Getting 40 in a playoffs game is an impressive feat. But considering the circumstances of the past week, the record-tying 40-point performance takes on a category of its own.
Nichols found out Saturday that his 24-year-old sister, Cecilia Coleman of Chicago, lost her ongoing battle with leukemia. He played that night and flew home the next morning, unsure if he would be back with the team for Wednesday’s playoff game. Not only did he come back, but Nichols played a game that could go down as one of the best performances in UAlbany history.
Nichols started the game by making three consecutive 3-pointers, which gave the Danes an early 11-2 lead. From there he and his teammates fed off of his energy and kept their foot on the gas pedal.
“David got us going early,” said UAlbany head coach Will Brown after the game. “I think this was his two hour escape.”
Nichols fought back tears while reflecting on the events that transpired over the past few days. “It means a lot,” Nichols said. “The team and the coaches have been there for me during this tough time making sure I wasn’t down and trying to spend time with me.”
Nichols’ eight 3-pointers fell one shot short of the UAlbany record. His inspiring performance brings back memories of Peter Hooley, the beloved point guard who made “The Shot” against Stony Brook to send UAlbany to the NCAA Tournament in 2015. The Aussie, who is currently playing overseas in England, even tweeted at Nichols after the game saying, “The power of an angel.”
As for the actual game, Hartford never had a chance.
Last year UAlbany ended its regular season with a 75-59 win over Hartford. Five days later, Hartford put up an incredible shooting performance in a 68-59 stunner at SEFCU Arena. This year the Danes beat the Hawks 80-62 this past Saturday to end the regular season. With last year’s result on their mind, UAlbany made sure it wouldn’t stumble again.
Joe Cremo recorded a double-double with 14 points and 10 assists, which tied a school record.
“I think my teammates were putting me in good spots. Joe (Cremo) was finding me all night,” Nichols said.
“He’s (Nichols) like a brother to me. I’m proud of him and proud of this team for the effort we had tonight,” Cremo said.
UAlbany will travel to Long Island to battle rival No. 2 Stony Brook in a semifinal matchup. The Seawolves have beaten the Danes twice this year; in the first game the Danes squandered a 21-point lead. And in the second, UAlbany lost 72-65 at SEFCU.
If the Danes want to get back to the NCAA Tournament, it certainly won’t be easy. If they defeat Stony Brook it is likely they’ll need to go to Burlington to face a Vermont team that has not lost in America East play this year.
Brown is eager for that opportunity, saying “We want to go to Burlington one more time and we have one team standing in our way.”