UAlbany men’s basketball earns best win of season over UMass Lowell

UAlbany's Gerald Drumgoogle looks to get past UMass Lowell's Yuri Covington, Sunday, at Hudson Valley Community College in America East men's basketball action.

UAlbany's Gerald Drumgoogle looks to get past UMass Lowell's Yuri Covington, Sunday, at Hudson Valley Community College in America East men's basketball action.

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TROY — UAlbany men’s basketball head coach Dwayne Killings called his Great Danes’ surprising victory over UMass Lowell a statement win for his young team.

“It sends a message,” Killings said after the Great Danes (1-2 America East, 6-12 overall) won their first America East Conference test with a resounding 89-63 decision over the River Hawks (2-1, 14-3) Sunday afternoon at Hudson Valley Community College’s McDonough Sports Complex. “It was a confidence-building game. We have the ability to be a top-four team in our league. We have the ability. Now it’s on us to get it done.”

Killings said he and his staff put up several goals and reminders to his players in the locker room. “We told them that ‘we have the answers.’ Today, they did it,” Killings said. “That’s a really good basketball team that we beat today. We might have caught them on a bad day, but I’ll take it.”

The Great Danes excelled in nearly every facet of the game before a crowd of 1,308. They connected on 26 of 55 shots from the floor, including 13-for-20 from 3-point range. Four Great Danes scored in double figures, led by Sarju Patel’s 23 points on 5-for-6 from beyond the arc. Aaron Reddish scored 21 points on 6-for-9 shooting from the floor, 3-for-3 accuracy from three-point territory and 6-for-6 at the line.

Meanwhile, Gerald Drumgoole Jr. scored 22 points including 5-for-6 from 3-point range, to go along with 6 assists and 5 rebounds. Hudson Falls native Jonathan Beagle contributed 17 points and 12 rebounds.

“We talked about starting fast and breaking last,” Killings said. “I was really proud of our guys. The last time we played here [a 67 loss to New Hampshire] I was embarrassed. We had a practice here [Saturday], and it wasn’t very good, but the guys definitely responded better in the pre-game shootaround today.”

“It was a blast out there to see all the guys hitting their shots,” said Reddish, whose previous season-high was 17 points against Union College. “It feels great to get a win over a team like that. They were trying to get the No. 1 spot in the league.”

“We just carried the momentum from the UMBC game [a 92-83 loss] the other day,” added Patel, who matched his season-best scoring total accomplished against Florida Atlantic. “I think we kind of felt that our offense was coming around in practice.”

Killings was asked if his team’s strong performance from beyond the arc was in the game plan.

“That’s been our goal all year. It’s by design,” he said. “I want them to take the shot when they find it. When we rebound the ball and get out in transition, we can get good shots.”

Although Killings was extremely impressed with his team’s offensive showing, he was also happy with its defense.

“We want to be versatile on offense, but our identity has to be our defense,” he said. “But it’s hard to do, and playing good defense is a lot of work.

“I think the league will be very interesting now. This game shows that we are in the fight.”

The Great Danes never trailed against the River Hawks. Beagle scored on a short jumper for UAlbany, and after Abdoul Karim Coulibaly matched that basket with a layup, UAlbany scored the next seven points to open up a 9-2 lead. Back-to-back treys by Reddish and Patel pushed the Great Danes’ advantage to 15-4, and Reddish later scored four consecutive points to push his team’s lead to 26-13 with 8:17 left in the first half.

The Great Danes went into the intermission with a 38-29 lead, but they quickly turned up the heat in the second half behind eight points from Patel in the first four minutes to extend their cushion to 50-33.

When Drumgoole sank a 3-pointer and tacked on the free throw for the four-point play, and Reddish added a quick 3, the Great Danes secured their largest lead of the game (62-35) with 13:14 to go.

The River Hawks employed a full-court press in an attempt to slow down the Great Danes’   high-powered attack, and they eventually sliced their deficit to 82-62 when Quinton Mincey converted a steal into a fast-break layup with a few minutes left.

But UAlbany finished strong behind a slam-dunk by Beagle, a layup by Amsterdam product Marcus Jackson and two free throws by Tairi Ketner.

“It was probably the best game we’ve had all year. When you think about two halves, we defended, we scored it, our guys did a great job with their roles. Sarju Patel was great, Aaron Reddish was great, Jonathan [Beagle] and his play moving the basketball was terrific. Now, can we be that all the time — that’s the question,” Killings added.

Morris and Yuri Covington topped the River Hawks with 14 points each.

The Great Danes travel to Bryant Wednesday and to NJIT on Saturday. They return home Jan. 19 to face Binghamton.

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