Brett Gifford drew a large crowd just outside the media room Saturday night.
His University at Albany teammates couldn’t wait to watch him conduct a rare postgame interview.
The 6-foot-11 junior center helped key a lock-down defensive effort with 11 rebounds, four blocked shots and two steals as the Great Danes crushed Canisius, 74-46, in a non-conference game at SEFCU Arena.
The Great Danes’ offense was sluggish, but their defense was
superb, limiting the Golden Griffins to 30.9 percent from the floor.
After making only three of their first 18 shots from the floor, the Danes turned up their defensive effort and pulled away.
With the score deadlocked at
17-17 and 8:10 left in the first half, the Danes went on a 19-0 tear. Although they connected on only five of their first 23 shots, they made seven of the next 11 during the spurt as the Danes pulled out to a 36-17 lead. Albany led, 37-20, at the half.
The Danes eventually led by as many as 30 several times in the game at 67-37, 69-39 and 74-44.
Gifford was one of the main reasons for Albany’s success.
“I thought we needed a good effort from Gifford today, because [Chris] Gadley takes up so much space,” said Albany head coach Will Brown of the 6-foot-9,
320-pound Canisius center. “I told Giff not to wait for Gadley to get into position. Giff stepped up and absorbed their penetration, and he blocked some shots.”
“I thought we had a good defensive effort tonight,” said Gifford. “We clogged up the lane, and I was a little more ambitious about trying to block some shots. It feels good to get a little publicity,” he said with an ear-to-ear grin while his teammates poked fun at him.”
Besides Gifford, the key defensive play of the Danes was their press, led by 6-8 sophomore Scotty McRae, senior swingman Jerel Hastings and freshman point guard Anthony Raffa.
“I think our defensive emphasis in practice all week paid off,” said Brown. “I thought the more we picked up the press in full court, the more energy we had. I told Jerel that we needed to play him more, and I also thought that Scotty McRae is very good at the top of the press. We have to keep mixing and matching with our defense to be successful. We thought our press would force them to take quick shots, and it did.”
“I tried to bring as much energy to the press as I could,” said McRae, who finished with 13 points, three blocked shots and two steals. “I think we’re finally starting to learn how to finish games.”
“I thought our press bothered them a lot,” said Raffa, who finished with 14 points and six rebounds.
“I never worry about Anthony’s speed. He plays like the Tazmanian Devil all the time,” said Brown.
Junior forward Will Harris contributed 14 points, and sophomore guard Tim Ambrose finished with 15 points, eight rebounds and five assists, despite playing only 19 minutes because of cramping.
Although he was pleased with his team’s performance, Brown said it was a difficult couple of days for his family because of the recent ice storm.
“I’ve got my family in the Crowne Plaza, because we still don’t have any power, and it might be three to seven days before we have any electricity,” he said. “I was also helping my sister move a lot of wet rugs and other stuff out of her place.”
Canisius (3-6) was paced by Frank Turner with 14 points and Julie Coles with 11 points and six rebounds.
Gadley, who was averaging better than 13 points and seven rebounds a game, scored just three points.
Albany held a commanding
56-31 edge on the boards. The Great Danes shot only 39.4 percent from the floor, however.
“I was hoping we would shoot at least 40 percent, but I told our guys if we were missing shots, we could still be in the game by rebounding and playing defense,” said Brown whose 6-4 team ended a two-game losing streak at Siena and Lehigh, respectively.
Logins 0-3 0-0 0, Frazier 2-9 0-2 5, Gadley 1-4 1-4 3, Turner 5-13 4-10 14, Coles
4-11 3-4 11, evilacqua 1-5 0-0 3, Chance 1-3 0-0 3, Johnson 3-4 1-2 7, Hawkins 0-1 0-0 0, Vazquez-Simmons 0-2 0-0 0. Totals: 17-55 9-22 46.
Harris 6-10 0-0 14, Connelly 2-7 0-1 4, Gifford 25 0-0 4, Raffa 5-15 3-4 14, Ambrose
4-9 6-6 15, Allen 0-5 2-2 2, Hasting 1-3 0-0 2, McRae 3-7 6-6 13, Johnson 2-3 0-1 4, Covington 26-66 17-20 74.
Halftime: Albany 37-20. Three-point goals: Canisius 3-21 (Logins 0-2, Frazier 1-2, Gadley 0-1, Gurner 0-2, Coles 0-4, Bevilacqua 1-5, Chance 1-3, Vazquez-Simmons 0-2); Albany 5-16 (Harris 2-2, Raffa 1-5, Ambrose 1-4, Allen 0-3, McRae 1-2). Rebounds: Canisius 31 (Gadley 7), Albany 56 (Gifford 11). Assists: Canisius 9 (Turner 5), Albany 14 (Ambrose 5). Personal fouls: Canisius 19, Albany 20. Officials: Robert Adams, Jeff Anderson, Gary Tracy. Attendance: 2,748.
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