TROPHY STAYS AT THE BANK
ALBANY N.Y. — The UAlbany Great Danes took down their crosstown rival Siena Saints 81-72 in their first time hosting the Albany Cup in front of a sold out crowd of 4,535 at the SEFCU Arena on Sunday.
The Danes have won five out of the last seven Albany Cup games and regained the trophy after relinquishing it after a 78-70 loss to the Saints last December.
UAlbany had a lead most of the game, but had to overcome a late surge by the Saints, who got within four points with 1:34 remaining in the contest.
The Danes were led by Sophomore guard David Nichols, who didn’t play in last year’s game having to sit behind Even Singletary. This year, with no one in the way between him and the floor, Nichols played as if it were his last Albany Cup dropping 29 points and was on the hardwood all but one minute of the game. He kept the Saints defense at bay as they couldn’t find an answer.
“I think it was just important to follow the gameplan and what coach put in front of us,” said Nichols. “My teammates did a great job at getting me the ball and finding openings.”
“He’s tougher and better than I thought,” said Siena Head Coach Jimmy Patsos regarding Nichols after the game. “That kid was better than our guards and we have to learn from that.”
The Danes got off to a fast start including a 9-0 run seven minutes into the game, which set the tone as Albany took an 18-point lead into the break. They held Siena to 23% shooting from the floor while knocking down 14 of 30 shots themselves in the first half. They had the momentum, but the whole building knew that the Saints weren’t out of it and that they would make a run.
In the second half Siena Sophomore guard Nico Clareth played as if he was a man possessed and could not be stopped. Clareth had all 16 of his points in the second half going 6-for-8 from the field including four three-pointers. This was a 180 from the first half where he was bottled up without a bucket missing seven shots including a breakaway dunk.
Clareth plays with a lot of emotion and it seemed to be getting the best of him in the first half. When he channels it for his benefit he can be a dangerous player and that’s just what he did after the half.
“Nico’s a feel guy,” said Patsos. “I have to adapt to coaching guys like that. They’re energy guys, they take some interesting shots, but you have to have guys like that on your team in order to win the MAAC.”
With Clareth leading the charge the Siena fans got back into the game and there was electricity in the atmosphere. It seemed as if the game was slipping away from Albany, but two Great Danes stepped up and helped seal the deal.
Sophomore guard Joe Cremo came alive scoring 18 of his 20 points in the second half, most of which seemed to be in crucial moments, and David Nichols added 15 more. The duo accounted for all but 10 of UAlbany’s 43 second half points. They proved to the Great Dane fan base that they have nothing to worry about after losing three perimeter players from last year’s conference champion team.
“I’m proud of my guys,” said Albany Head Coach Will Brown. “It’s a good win against a very talented team that’s going to win a lot of games this year. Great atmosphere.”
With the SEFCU Arena hosting the Albany Cup for the first time in its 15-year inception, the building felt like it never had before. There have been a lot of big games played at SEFCU, but not to where the other team’s fan base was just as loud.
“I think the Siena fans have a great pride. Basketball is important and they have a really good program,” said Brown. “This is where (the Albany Cup) it belongs every other year.”
The Danes made a good case, but don’t ask Jimmy Patsos. He was question about whether or not his team would come back to the SEFCU Arena when he cut the press conference short and deflected the question. He and Brown have been feuding on where to play the game and it doesn’t look like he and the Saints will agree to come back across town
As for the Danes this could make their win just that much better. Even though Siena leads the Albany Cup series 10-6 since both schools became Division I, the Great Danes made the best of their shot to play the game in their building making sure that the trophy stays at the SEFCU Arena.