Given the scheduling format of America East Conference play this season, which calls for two teams to play one another on back-to-back days at one site, it’s a necessity for teams to have short memories between games.
But . . . after a major road win like the one the UAlbany men’s basketball program pulled off Saturday night, topping Vermont 63-62 after falling behind 18 points in the first half, the Great Danes got some time to enjoy it, right?
As in, not a lot.
“They’ve got the bus ride to the hotel to celebrate,” UAlbany head coach Will Brown said.
Is it at least a bit of drive?
“Our hotel, I believe, is 1.2 miles from Patrick Gymnasium,” Brown said.
UAlbany, though, got to celebrate some on the court and in the locker room, too, following what is likely the program’s biggest win in several years. To end a nine-game losing streak going back to last season, the Great Danes snapped a nine-game losing streak against a Vermont (2-3, 2-3) program that has dominated UAlbany (1-2, 1-3) in recent years and was selected as the preseason America East favorite.
CJ Kelly, a program newcomer as a transfer, scored 27 points to lead UAlbany to the win in Burlington. The junior said he knew little about Vermont’s recent run of success against the Great Danes.
“But I’m 1-0 now,” said Kelly, noting his record against the Catamounts.
UAlbany trailed 38-22 at halftime, and started to chip away at Vermont’s lead during the first several minutes of the second half.
Then, Vermont went ice cold — and UAlbany heated up.
After Vermont pushed ahead 52-40 with more than 12 minutes to play, the Catamounts didn’t score again for nearly eight minutes. During that time, six different Great Danes scored as UAlbany put together a 16-0 run to surge ahead.
Vermont tied it at 61 with 2:11 to go, but graduate student Jarvis Doles answered with a jumper to put UAlbany ahead 63-61.
No more scoring happened until the frantic final 10 seconds.
Vermont redshirt senior Ben Shungu made 1 of 2 free throws with 9.2 seconds left to trim the Great Danes’ lead to a point, and UAlbany junior Jamel Horton then missed two free throws with 7.6 seconds to go. After a timeout with Vermont in possession of the ball with 7.0 seconds remaining, the teams traded turnovers in a wild sequence that ended with the ball in the hands of Vermont junior Isaiah Powell — a Colonie High School graduate — who missed a shot at the buzzer, as the Great Danes held on for a one-point win.
“Let’s face it,” Brown said. “This could have been a very demoralizing loss if that shot at the end would’ve went in.”
But it didn’t. So, instead, Saturday’s result was one to build on for UAlbany, which played without starters Cameron Healy (oblique) and Adam Lulka (nose/head).
“Really proud of our guys,” Brown said.
UAlbany made 14 of 24 shots in the second half after making 9 of 25 in the first.
Vermont junior Ryan Davis had 17 of his team-high 21 points before halftime. In the second half, the Catamounts only made 9 of 28 shots as the Great Danes’ defense focused more attention on Davis.
The loss was the second in a row for Vermont, which fell by a point in double-overtime against NJIT last Monday. In that game, too, Vermont had a halftime lead.
“For whatever reason,” Vermont head coach John Becker said, “we can’t put together 40 minutes.”
Besides Kelly’s game-high 27 points, UAlbany received 10 from Doles, eight from Horton — who added nine rebounds — and seven apiece from junior Antonio Rizzuto and graduate student Kellon Taylor.
Vermont’s Powell had 13 points.
Sunday’s rematch in Burlington tips off at 4 p.m.
“There would be no better feeling than for us to head home [Sunday] with a sweep,” Brown said, “but I do know that will be a very difficult task.”
Rizzuto 3-7 1-2 7, Taylor 3-5 1-5 7, Kelly 8-17 8-9 27, Anderson 0-2 0-0 0, Doles 5-6 0-0 10, Hank 0-0 0-0 0, Hutcheson 0-2 0-0 0, Shafer 0-0 0-0 0, Champion 1-3 2-2 4, Horton 3-7 0-2 8. Totals: 23-49 12-20 63.
Smith 2-9 0-0 5, Powell 5-7 1-1 13, Mazzulla 1-4 2-2 4, Shungu 3-11 3-4 10, Davis 9-16 0-1 21, Deloney 0-2 0-0 0, Patella 1-2 0-0 3, Fiorillo 1-2 0-0 3, Demuth 1-1 0-1 3, Duncan 0-4 0-0 0. Totals: 23-58 6-9 62.
Halftime score: Vermont 38, UAlbany 22. Three-point shooting: UAlbany 5-18 (Rizzuto 0-3, Kelly 3-10, Anderson 0-2, Horton 2-3), Vermont 10-29 (Smith 1-5, Powell 2-3, Mazzulla 0-2, Shungu 1-5, Davis 3-6, Deloney 0-1, Patella 1-2, Fiorillo 1-2, Demuth 1-1, Duncan 0-2). Rebounds: UAlbany 31 (Horton 9), Vermont 35 (Davis 11). Assists: UAlbany 9 (Kelly 4), Vermont 14 (Smith 4). Turnovers: UAlbany 13, Vermont 15. Total fouls: UAlbany 17, Vermont 18. Technical fouls: None. Fouled out: Doles. Attendance: 0.