UAlbany Retains Albany Cup in Dog Eat Dog Game
ALBANY N.Y. — A wise man once told me that there are three things that are guaranteed in life. Death, taxes and Travis Charles’ midrange jump shot.
The UAlbany men’s basketball team survived a late surge from Siena and knocked off the Saints 74-69 in front of a crowd just shy of 10,000 at the Times Union Center on Saturday.
Fifth year senior Travis Charles started the game by scoring eight of the Danes’ first 10 points and finished the game by scoring six in a row when the game was tied at 65 a piece with 3:49 left in the contest. He finished with 19 points and shot 7-12 from the field. Charles was the answer for UAlbany when Jimmy Patsos and company sicked the dogs on the Danes’ front court trying to take Joe Cremo and David Nichols out of the game.
“Look we took away Nichols and we took away Cremo, two of the three,” said Siena head coach Jimmy Patsos. “You don’t let those two beat you. You’ve got to see if the other guys can beat you. Hey he [Travis Charles] got 19 points. He beat us.”
“Sometimes teams do whatever they can to take away these two guys [Cremo and Nichols],” said Charles. “That’s how I get to open up and become a big presence on the offensive end because no one wants two guys who combine for about 55-60% of our offense last year beat them. So I just feed off my teammates.”
Nichols and Cremo had off nights as they combined to shoot 8-25 from the field, but both had key roles in securing the win down the stretch as the two juniors hit key free throws to put the game on ice.
The Danes had about a six to 10-point cushion for most of the game, but the Saints hung around for much of the contest and went on a late 15-2 run and took a 65-63 lead with 4:14 left after Ashante Shivers hit back to back threes. The crowd seem to be the difference. The closer the Saints narrowed the gap the more deafening the building became.
“I thought some of their guys played really well and made some tough shots. Especially Shivers,” said UAlbany head coach Will Brown. “I thought Siena played really well.”
Shivers hit four three-pointers on the game and he was one of four Siena players to finish with double digits.
“With about four minutes to go I said this is where really good teams maintain their composure, play with poise and finish the job,” said Brown.
That’s when the Danes hunkered down and went on a 9-2 run and didn’t let the pressure get to them.
“We just came up a little short and we’re starting to learn a couple things about ourselves,” said Patsos.
The Saints, who dropped to 2-7 on the season, start three freshmen and have one of the youngest teams in the nation. Every game is a learning experience and they are still trying to find their footing and learn their identity.
“Young teams have to grow up fast and we have to learn from good teams. And Albany is a good team,” said Patsos.
The Great Danes are on a different path and are led by a veteran roster. Their 10-1 record is the best start for the Danes since joining the Division I ranks. UAlbany currently sits in the sixth spot in the nation in the college insider coaches poll for mid-majors. They are predicted to get back to the America East championship and Jimmy Patsos is well aware.
“I vote in the mid-major poll and they’re like fifth or sixth in the nation,” said Patsos. “Next year I want our program to be where they are and be fifth or sixth ourselves. We play Vermont on Monday. On Tuesday I’ll let you know how the other team who will play in the America East championship will be.”
One question that has been lingering is will these teams meet again next year? It has not yet been answered, but has been hot topic as of late.
The Danes have taken home five out of the last six Albany Cups and they feel like they haven’t gotten the respect they deserve. The two sides aren’t sure if another Albany Cup will be played next season because UAlbany wants to host the event at the SEFCU Arena. Last year the Danes hosted the Albany Cup for the first time ever and sold out the SEFCU Arena and housed just over 4,500 fans.
Will Brown uttered that sentiment when he asked the media, “Was tonight a sell-out?” He continued, “If we have the game at SEFCU next year I can guarantee it will be a sell-out.”
He might be right, but Saturday’s attendance was over twice what a sold-out crowd looks like at the SEFCU Arena.
One thing that is for sure is that this game has to be played no matter where the venue is. The biggest loser in not renewing this crosstown rivalry would be the almost 10,000 fans that were in the Times Union Center on Saturday that came out despite the snow and created an environment that only happens once a year in the Capital District. And that is the Albany Cup.