University at Albany had to sweat it out in the second half, but the Great Danes used some clutch performances down the stretch to hold off Hartford, 73-63, in an America East Conference game Saturday night at the Chase Arena at Reich Family Pavilion.
The Great Danes led by as many as 19 in the first half and 17 early in the second half, but the Hawks used pressure defense to close the gap to as little as three, 52-49, with 6:48 left.
But Jon Iati nailed two three-pointers over the next four minutes to help Albany build its lead back to 62-54 with 2:08. His second trey, off an inbounds pass from Brian Lillis, beat the the buzzer. Iati then added a pair of free throws as the Danes took a 64-56 lead into the
final minute. They pulled away at the free-throw line.
The victory enabled the Great Danes (4-2, 9-9) to pull into a three-way tie for first place in the league with Binghamton and the University of Maryland Baltimore County.
Senior forward Brent Wilson led the way for the Danes with 17 points and 11 rebounds, while Lillis finished with his third straight
double-double (15 points, 10 rebounds). Junior guard Jarel Hastings added with 16 points.
“That was a big win on the road against a team that was playing very good basketball,” said Albany head coach Will Brown. “I’m proud of our guys. They jumped out to a big lead, and the reason was defense. Although we shot 34 percent from the floor, we still led by 17. We knew they would make a run at us, and we never felt comfortable in the second half. We turned the ball over a few times, but we made our shots down the stretch.”
“There were stretches where we got a little complacent,” said Wilson. “But this is a whole new team, and we’re still getting used to each other in those situations. That’s three road wins in a row now, and I think we’re starting to get an identity as a good road team.”
Lillis said the Great Danes’ Achilles’ heel continues to be their ball-handling against the press.
“The bad thing about having such good size is trying to handle the basketball against the press,” he said. “We made a few turnovers, but we also made some good plays at the end.”
Both teams were frigid from the floor in the first half. The Hawks shot just 4-for-21 (19 percent) and needed to make their last two shots before intermission to do even that well.
Albany was 11-for-31 (35.5 percent). Hastings gave the team a lift with early back-to-back baskets and finished with 10 in the first 20 minutes. Lillis had nine points and four rebounds.
The Great Danes, who piled up 13 fouls in the first 20 minutes, led by as many as 19, 30-11, on a three-point play by Tim Ambrose with 2:28 to go, but the Hawks outscored Albany, 7-1, the rest of the way to draw within 31-18 at the intermission.
Although the Hawks hit their first four shots in the second half — all from beyond the arc — the Great Danes took a 46-29 lead on a Brian Connelly jumper with 16:14 to go.
But Hartford went to a man-to-man press and used a 14-0 run to cut its deficit to 46-43. Albany hit back-to-back baskets to build a 50-43
cushion, but Hartford then closed the gap back to three when Warren McLendon hit a pair of free throws with 6:48 to go.
Hastings 5-10 5-5 16, Lillis 4-13 6-9 15, Connelly 3-11 0-0 6, Wilson 5-10 3-4 17, Covington 2-3 2-2 6, Moores 0-0 0-0 0, Iati 2-4 2-2 8, Ambrose 2-2 1-1 5, Gifford 0-0 0-0 0, Turley 0-1 0-0 0. Totals: 23-54 19-23 73.
Von Rosenberg 4-10 3-4 12, Turner 2-9 2-5 7, Zeglinski 4-12 2-2 13, Minor 0-1 0-0 0, Estes 2-3 0-0 4, McLendon 5-8 9-12 19, Torres 0-1 0-0 0, Glowiak 0-3 0-0 0, Sabia 2-6 3-5 8. Totals: 19-53 19-28 63.
Halftime: Albany 31-18. Three-point goals: Albany 8-16 (Hastings 1-2, Lillis 1-1, Connelly 0-2, Wilson 4-8, Iati 2-3); Hartford 6-23 (Von Rosenberg 1-3, Turner 1-3, Zeglinski 3-9, McLendon 0-1, Torres 0-1, Glowiak 0-2, Sabia 1-4). Rebounds: Albany 42 (Wilson 11, Lillis 10), Hartford 35 (Turner 8). Assists: Albany 11 (Lillis 5), Hartford 9 (Turner 4). Personal fouls: Albany 25, Hartord 22. Fouled out: Connelly. Officials: Jeffrey Smith, Larry Last, Michael Pilla. Attendance: 1,202.
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