Freshman Joe Cremo, the two-time New York State Class A Player of the Year from Scotia-Glenville, earned more minutes Friday. So did 6-foot-11 junior center Richard Peters.
Even struggling Peter Hooley came through in the clutch.
Cremo played the best game of his short college career with 18 points on 6-for-7 shooting from the floor, and Peters, playing more because of an ankle injury to CBA product Greig Stire, deflected an inbounds pass with 0.7 seconds left to help University at Albany escape with a 74-73 victory over New Jersey Institute of Technology in a non-conference game at SEFCU Arena.
Hooley, a senior guard and the two-time MVP of the America East Conference tournament, put the Great Danes ahead when he drove the length of the court and put up a prayer of a shot, drawing a foul with just 1.2 seconds left. He missed the first free throw and made the second for what proved to be the game-winning point.
But the Highlanders weren’t through yet. Tim Coleman inbounded the ball from behind the UAlbany basket, and Hooley deflected it out of bounds near the NJIT bench. UAlbany head coach Will Brown instructed Peters to defend the inbounds pass, and when he extended his huge frame, he was able to deflect Winfield Willis’ pass, allowing the Great Danes to even their record at 3-3.
NJIT head coach Jim Engles didn’t argue the late foul call on Hooley.
“If it’s a foul, it’s a foul,” he said. “The ref wouldn’t have called it a foul if it wasn’t a foul. If it’s a foul, I want them to call it a foul. It doesn’t matter how much time was left. It was a random play, and he [Hooley] did a good job of creating contact. As far as the last inbounds pass is concerned, that was a smart coaching move to put that big guy in there. If I had another timeout when I saw him defending on that play, I would have called it.”
Hooley, who continues to struggle shooting the ball this season, was only 2-for-6 from the floor with seven points, but his clutch drive and late free throw were key to the Danes’ win.
“I just drove toward the rim,” Hooley said. ”Hopefully, making that last free throw gave me some confidence.”
Meanwhile, it was the steady play of Cremo that kept the Great Danes in the game.
“I was just trying to do something to help this team win,” he said. “I was trying to do the little things. I hate losing at anything. I try to give a lot of energy at both ends. Whatever minutes I get, I try to make the most of.”
Brown, when asked if Cremo’s performance gives him even more playing time, agreed emphatically.
“He’ll get more minutes. Absolutely,” Brown said. “Joe wants to win. He’s very versatile. The problem tonight was that Joe doesn’t know any of our zone [offense] stuff at this point, but we had to make it work with him at the point. Joe is playing very well, and Peter is not playing very well right now. Do you roll with the three guys who led us last year? We’ve got some late-game stuff that Peter just can’t do right now. He’s thinking too much out there.”
Brown said he plans on giving Cremo more time at the point, and if he chooses to use a smaller lineup, Cremo might also get time as a backup power forward.
“His head will really be spinning,” Brown said.
Stire, who suffered some type of ankle injury just three minutes into the game, could be out for a couple of weeks, Brown speculated. If so, Peters, who finished with seven points and seven rebounds in 25 minutes, will move into Stire’s spot in the starting lineup.
Ray Sanders and Evan Singletary scored 15 and 14 points, respectively, for the Great Danes, who shot only 20-for-30 from the line and just 4-for-16 from 3-point range. Still, UAlbany connected on 53.2 percent overall from the floor.
The Great Danes host Yale Sunday at 2 p.m.
Coleman 4-8 4-4 13, Smith 2-5 0-0 4, Howard 4-11 0-0 9, Lynn 8-18 0-0 23, Willis 4-9 2-2 13, Izevbuwa 0-2 0-0 0, Tselentakis 1-1 2-2 5, Ukawuba 1-4 2-3 4, Shustov 0-0 0-0 0, Bendary 1-2 0-0 2. Totals: 25-60 10-11 73.
Rowley 3-4 0-0 6, Stire 0-0 0-0 0, Singletary 4-9 4-6 14, Sanders 5-12 5-9 15, Hooley 2-6 3-34 7, Andrews 2-4 2-2 6, Cremo 6-7 4-6 18, Peters 3-3 1-1 7, Ennema 0-1 0-0 0, Charles 0-1 1-2 1. Totals: 25-47 20-30 74.
Halftime: UAlbany 33, NJIT 33. 3-point goals: NJIT 13-28 (Coleman 1-3, Howard 1-3, Lynn 7-14, Willis 3-4, Izevbuwa 0-1, Tselentakis 1-1, Ukawba 0-2); UAlbany 4-16 (Singletary 2-5, Sanders 0-3, Hooley 0-3, Andrews 0-1, Cremo 2-3, Ennema 0-1). Rebounds: NJIT 24 (Ukawuba 6), UAlbany 36 (Rowley 10). Assists: NJIT 15 (Ukawuba 4), UAlbany 10 (Rowley 5). Total fouls: NJIT 26, UAlbany 16. Officials: Guy Pagano, Nathan Farrell, Justin Simon. Attendance: 2,353
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