UAlbany needed to avoid a three-game losing streak.
Aaron Reddish provided the boost the Great Danes needed to make that happen Saturday at Hartford.
A freshman who is the younger brother of New York Knicks player Cam Reddish, Aaron Reddish pumped in all nine of his points during a key stretch to help fuel a UAlbany men’s basketball surge that ended with the Great Danes earning a 71-52 win at Chase Family Arena in West Hartford, Connecticut.
“Everybody’s rooting for Aaron. He oozes with talent,” Killings said of the 6-foot-7 freshman who has played sparingly this season off the team’s bench. “He’s got a lot of talent, and he’s so young — and he’s learning, and he’s trying and I think he’s working a lot harder.”
Reddish hadn’t previously scored more than seven points in a game this season for the Great Danes, then scored nine consecutive UAlbany points when Saturday’s game — a much closer America East Conference contest than the final score indicates — hit its turning point. With UAlbany ahead 42-40, Reddish made a 3-pointer, converted a three-point play, then — after Hartford’s Traci Carter had made a 3 — Reddish delivered another 3 that started up a 16-1 run that decisively swung the contest in UAlbany’s favor.
“Basket gets a little bit wider,” Reddish said of his confidence during a stretch of less than 90 seconds when he scored all of his points. “I felt like I was in attack mode.”
Matt Cerruti led UAlbany (6-5 America East, 10-13 overall) with 15 points in the win against Hartford (3-4, 5-14), the America East’s reigning champion. Cerruti said Reddish’s high-scoring sequence gave the rest of the Great Danes some extra energy to push harder.
“We all see the work he puts in. He’s shooting every day after practice or before practice, so it’s nice to see it pay off,” said Cerruti, who bounced back after only scoring two points in UAlbany’s loss Wednesday against UMBC. “We all know what he’s capable of — and he’s a great kid. So when that stuff goes right for somebody like him, it’s really rewarding for everybody to see.”
Saturday’s game featured 11 lead changes, and the final one came when Cerruti made a basket with a dozen minutes to go to put UAlbany up 40-38. The Great Danes took a three-possession advantage for good with Reddish’s second 3, and UAlbany held a double-digit lead for the rest of the game following a 3 from Jamel Horton a minute after Reddish’s shot.
Horton finished with 14 points, and Trey Hutcheson added eight points and eight rebounds. For Hartford, which ended UAlbany’s 2020-21 season in the America East quarterfinals, Moses Flowers had a team-high 11 points.
As a team, UAlbany made 29 of 50 shots and 8 of 16 from 3-point territory in topping the program that represented the America East last year in the NCAA tournament. Cerruti said UAlbany assistant coach Dannton Jackson “was preaching all these last two days” how Hartford is the team that needs to be dethroned, regardless of its record this season.
“It runs through them until they’re beat [in the postseason],” Cerruti said after Saturday’s game. “In order to be a champ, you’ve got to beat the champ. So, obviously, it’s a big game for us, and beating them on their home court felt good. They’re a great team.”
The 19-point win was UAlbany’s most-lopsided of the season, and it kept them from falling below .500 in league play. UAlbany is in fifth place in the America East standings, but one of the teams in front of the Great Danes is Stony Brook, which is ineligible for this year’s conference playoffs.
Reddish’s nine minutes played against Hartford was right at his season average, but Killings said the freshman has put in the work to put himself in position to finish his rookie season strong. Down the stretch of the America East season, which continues for the Great Danes with a Wednesday home game against Maine, consistent strong play from Reddish — who is averaging 2.6 points per game — would be a great help.
“If he can play like this,” Killings said, “it makes us better.”