Platek plays key role in second-half surge as Siena beats UAlbany 75-62 in Albany Cup’s return

Siena's Andrew Platek handles the ball in front of UAlbany's Marcus Jackson in the Albany Cup at MVP Arena in Albany on Saturday, Nov. 12.

Siena's Andrew Platek handles the ball in front of UAlbany's Marcus Jackson in the Albany Cup at MVP Arena in Albany on Saturday, Nov. 12.

ALBANY – Andrew Platek couldn’t stop smiling.

About a year-and-a-half ago, when he graduated from North Carolina following a four-year career with the Tar Heels, he said he’d fallen out of love with the game of basketball.

Saturday night, now a graduate student for Siena men’s basketball, as Platek basked in the cheers of the raucous Saints-favoring half of the crowd at MVP Arena, it was pretty obvious the love was back.

The Guilderland native scored 15 points, including some key 3-pointers during the Saints’ furious closing stretch, as Siena roared past UAlbany for a 75-62 win in front of an energetic crowd of 9,561 in the Albany Cup’s return following a five-year absence.

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In the postgame press conference, an elated Platek showered love onto Siena head coach Carmen Maciariello.

“I can’t thank coach Carm enough for giving me a chance to come back and play,” Platek said. “He’s a big reason that I fell back in love with the game. You know, I didn’t have it when I was done playing when I graduated [from North Carolina]. I can’t say enough about this guy. It means the world to me.”

At UNC, Platek was part of college basketball’s most famous rivalry, between the Tar Heels and Duke. In the buildup to the Albany Cup, however, Platek said that it was the Siena-UAlbany rivalry that’s always held the deepest meaning for him.

Playing his first game at MVP Arena since he suffered a season-ending Achilles tendon tear on Dec. 3, 2021, Platek reveled in finally being part of the rivalry.

“I probably played more minutes tonight than I did in my tenure at Carolina in those [Duke] games,” Platek said. “It’s cool for me, but I couldn’t do it without these guys. I can’t say enough about this team I have right here.”

Platek was right in the middle of an epic surge by the Saints (2-0), who trailed by as many as 16 points four minutes into the second half, but finished with a 34-7 run to win going away.

Javian McCollum needed just nine shots to put up a game-high 20 points for Siena, Jackson Stormo added 12 points and eight rebounds after missing Monday’s season opener at Holy Cross with a back injury, and Jared Billups and Michael Baer combined for 16 points and 17 rebounds.

“That’s pretty cool, to have everybody clicking on all cylinders,” Platek said. 

“Like Andrew said, we have a lot of the pieces,” Maciariello said. “Now, it’s a matter of staying the course.”

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With the return of the Albany Cup came the return of familiar animosity between the two programs.

Though it was the first game as head coaches in the rivalry for both Maciariello — a 2001 Siena graduate — and UAlbany’s Dwayne Killings, there appeared to be a tense exchange in the postgame handshake line. The two head coaches shook hands, but Killings appeared to shout something back at Maciariello after the two walked away from each other.

Both coaches downplayed the exchange.

“It’s an emotional thing. Both teams really want to win,” Killings said. “There’s nothing there at all. I’ve got a lot of respect for [Maciariello] and what he’s doing.”

“I didn’t say anything,” Maciariello said. “I just shook his hand and kept moving.”

Killings was returning to the bench for UAlbany (1-2) after serving the first four games of a five-game suspension levied as the result of a school-led investigation into conduct prior to a November 2021 game. 

The first two games of Killings’ suspension were served during exhibition games. He’ll serve the final game of the suspension Monday when the Great Danes face Union.

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UAlbany suffered a potentially devastating blow less than eight minutes into the Albany Cup when the team’s best player, 2021-22 America East Rookie of the Year Justin Neely, exited with a left knee injury that Killings said may be “severe.”

Neely played just four minutes off the bench before going down in a heap on the baseline, his jersey pulled up over his face as he was tended to by the UAlbany training staff. He was helped to the locker room, barely able to put weight on the injured leg, and was on crutches following the game.

“The message to our team is, ‘Life is tough. One minute you’ve got it, one minute you don’t,’” Killings said. “My heart’s going to be broken if this kid’s going to miss this college basketball season. We’ll find out shortly.”

The injury to Neely — who missed both of the Great Danes’ exhibition games and their season opener at Towson with a shoulder injury before returning Tuesday at Immaculata — severely hampered UAlbany’s chances in the rebounding battle, which Siena won 42-30.

In Neely’s absence, Gerald Drumgoole Jr. took up the scoring charge for the Great Danes with 22 points, including a 5 of 9 performance from 3-point range. Trey Hutcheson and Da’Kquan Davis added 10 points apiece, but Davis dealt with cramps in the second half as Siena completed its comeback.

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McCollum, Siena’s sophomore lead guard, did a little bit of everything for the Saints. 

He put up his 20 points while making 5 of 9 shots from the field, including all three of his 3-point attempts, and was 7 of 8 from the free throw line to buoy a Saints team that was 20 of 33 overall at the charity stripe. He also doled out six assists and ran the show on offense while absorbing seven fouls from a UAlbany defense that was focused on him.

“He’s their primary ball-handler,” Killings said. “I thought we could wear him down.”

Categories: College Sports, Siena College, Sports, Sports, UAlbany

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