Get old, stay old.
Especially as players move around more freely due to relaxed NCAA transfer rules, that’s a mantra many college coaches embrace in building their rosters.
For UAlbany and first-year head coach Dwayne Killings, Wednesday night’s 68-67 win at Binghamton was a prime example of why teams try so hard to be able to rely on veterans.
In an America East Conference road game that bordered on being a must-win game for the Great Danes in order to keep their hopes alive of claiming a home playoff game, UAlbany received all except two of its points from players in at least their third college season.
And, in a game that closed with a 9-0 run for the Great Danes, the club’s seniors and graduate students delivered one pivotal play after another in the final minutes.
“We need[ed] urgency and we need[ed] leadership. In those key moments, the [pivotal] possessions, you want to go to your older guys because they’ve been through it,” Killings said of turning so heavily to his older players. “They’ve been on the road. In a tough game . . . they understand how to execute.”
Down 67-59 with three minutes to go, UAlbany didn’t panic as it faced its largest deficit of the game. The Great Danes’ game-ending run started with a pair of free throws from graduate student Paul Newman, continued with a three-point play from graduate student Matt Cerruti, then saw senior Jamel Horton make 1 of 2 at the foul line to bring UAlbany within 67-65 with 80 seconds to go.
From there, graduate student Jarvis Doles followed with his fifth 3-pointer of the night with 48.1 seconds to go, and UAlbany was able to force a couple turnovers in the final 40 seconds to seal a win that prevented the Great Danes from dropping their fifth game in six tries.
“Everybody was locked in. Everybody had confidence. Everybody was relaxed. We didn’t get tight,” Doles said after Wednesday’s game. “When [we fell behind 67-59], we just kept fighting.”
Instead of falling further in the America East standings, the win moved UAlbany into a tie for the postseason’s No. 3 seed. A loss would have sent the Great Danes to No. 6.
“There’s obviously pressure to win, but, at the same time, I think we just doubled down. I think we just were connected. We all had the same agenda,” Doles said.
Doles matched his career-high of 21 points to lead the Great Danes, and he made all five 3-point attempts he took. The five 3s were also a career-high for Doles, a Baltimore native in his fifth college season.
Cerruti produced 16 points and Horton added 13, and those two players each had three steals and teamed up for the game-winning defensive play.
After Doles’ final 3, the teams traded scoreless possessions, and Binghamton had one final chance to go back ahead. With seconds to go in the game, Binghamton’s Jacob Falko had the ball and was looking to make a play, but Horton stayed in front of the talented ball-handler and Cerruti helped off his man to poke the ball away. Several players crashed onto the ball as the game ended, with Horton securing the steal.
“We’ve been going through certain drills this week where we’re in the gap and swiping with our hands, so it paid off in the end,” Cerruti said of his deflection.
Some tensions boiled over after the final buzzer, with players on each team needing to be separated after a game that included 15 lead changes and a technical foul called on UAlbany’s Aaron Reddish.
“But it was all innocent,” Killings said of the postgame scene on the court. “I don’t think there was anything to be worried about. You know, when you cross each other to go to locker rooms after [games], it can be a little interesting. So, today, there were a couple words shared, but nothing [serious]. I have the utmost respect for their head coach and their program, so we taught our kids a lesson and we move on.”
Newman scored 11 points for UAlbany (7-7 league, 11-15 overall), while Tyler Bertram led Binghamton (7-7, 10-13) with 21 points.
Both teams shot well in a game that saw Binghamton not miss from the field in the opening eight minutes. UAlbany made 26 of 54 shots and 10 of 18 from 3-point territory, and Binghamton was 24 of 47 from the field and 9 of 18 from downtown.
UAlbany next plays Saturday when it hosts New Hampshire (7-7, 12-11), which is one of the teams the Great Danes are tied with in the standings.
Coming off a loss at Vermont, head coach Colleen Mullen had said she expected her Great Danes to deliver a bounce-back performance Wednesday against Binghamton.
And, they sure did.
Helped along by great starts to each quarter, the UAlbany women’s basketball team produced a 61-48 win Wednesday at SEFCU Arena in Albany. With the victory, UAlbany (11-4, 18-8) earned the regular-season sweep of Binghamton (1-12, 5-18) and improved to 13-0 at home this season.
UAlbany started the game with a 9-0 run, had a 9-0 run in the second quarter after Binghamton made a period-opening basket, made a 7-2 push right after halftime and produced a 9-2 run to begin the fourth.
The Great Danes never trailed in the game, maintained a double-digit lead for all of the fourth quarter and led by as many as 17 points in the final stanza.
Helene Haegerstrand had 15 points for UAlbany, while Ellen Hahne added 14 and Kayla Cooper contributed 10. Cooper and Haegerstrand each added seven rebounds.
Birna Benonysdottir led Binghamton with 14 points.
UAlbany next plays Saturday against New Hampshire (3-10, 6-18).
Among postseason-eligible programs, UAlbany is in second place in the America East standings, The Great Danes are a half-game behind Maine (11-3, 14-10), a club UAlbany hosts next week at SEFCU Arena.