As UAlbany men’s basketball head coach Will Brown put it, the Great Danes “played pretty well the last 13 minutes” of Saturday’s America East Conference game at New Hampshire.
Almost well enough, actually, to make up for how poorly the opening 27 minutes played out.
“We were really lethargic, especially on the offensive end,” Brown said during a post-game interview. “Very stagnant.”
That cost UAlbany in a game it wanted to win to build on the success it had last weekend in sweeping NJIT. New Hampshire, though, made enough plays in the final minutes to hold off a hard-charging UAlbany squad in a 71-64 win for the Wildcats at their home Lundholm Gymnasium in Durham, New Hampshire.
UAlbany (3-4, 3-6) never led and trailed New Hampshire (6-3, 7-5) by as many as 15 points in the second half. The Great Danes got back into the game, but never were able to do more than pull within a single-possession deficit of New Hampshire in the game’s final minutes.
“We just weren’t ready to play,” Brown said.
Fresh off a sweep last weekend against NJIT, during which the Great Danes made 56.1% of their shots, UAlbany trailed 35-22 at halftime against New Hampshire. In that opening 20 minutes, the Great Danes shot 23.3% from the field, 10% from 3 and 58.3% from the line.
New Hampshire head coach Bill Herrion said he told his team at halftime to prepare for a much different second half.
“You know they’re not going to go away,” Herrion said of the Great Danes. “They’ve got too much pride. They’re too well-coached. They’re talented.”
Those positive attributes, though, didn’t really show through until New Hampshire had pushed to a 48-34 lead with 13 minutes to go. UAlbany put together a 9-0 run to get back into the game, and a free throw from graduate student Chuck Champion had the Great Danes within 61-59 of New Hampshire with two minutes to go.
Herrion said his group is “still learning how to play ahead,” and junior Nick Guadarrama — who scored a game-high 25 points — agreed with that assessment.
“I think we’ve still got to learn how to put people away,” said Guadarrama, whose team has won its last three games.
After UAlbany pulled within 61-59, New Hampshire scored the next six points. UAlbany answered with the next five points, but the Great Danes never had possession with a chance to tie or go ahead in the final minute.
Besides Guadarrama’s 25 points, New Hampshire received 18 points from redshirt freshman Nick Johnson.
For the game, New Hampshire out-rebounded UAlbany 44-34 and had 14 assists to UAlbany’s three.
A pair of UAlbany players fouled out, and four of the team’s starters ended up with at least four fouls in the contest. Jamel Horton led the Great Danes with 19 points on 6 of 11 shooting, but the rest of the Great Danes scored 45 points on 15 of 45 shooting.
UAlbany and New Hampshire meet again Sunday at 2 p.m. on the Wildcats’ home court. The Great Danes’ energy and effort, Brown said, need to be better than they were Saturday.
“The biggest thing,” Brown said of the rematch, “is we cannot get outcompeted.”