Vermont’s mastery of University at Albany men’s basketball continues.
Although the Great Danes were much more competitive than they were in a 25-point loss earlier this month at Patrick Gym, they couldn’t solve the Catamounts’ rugged defense or corral their interior scoring. The result was a 50-43 victory for Vermont before a boisterous crowd of 4,182 Saturday night at SEFCU Arena.
Vermont (6-2 America East Conference, 13-7 overall) has beaten the Great Danes eight consecutive times and owns a 25-8 edge in the all-time series. UAlbany, which lost consecutive games for the first time this year, dropped to 5-3 and 16-6.
The Catamounts shot 48.7 percent from the floor and placed four players in double figures: Clancy Rugg with 14 points and 10 rebounds, Ethan O’Day and Sandro Carissimo with 13 points apiece and Candon Rusin with 10 points.
UAlbany shot just 29.6 percent, and its top two scorers, Mike Black and Jacob Iati, combined for just 3-for-24 from the floor. Iati went scoreless, and Black finished with 13 points, although most were down the stretch.
UAlbany took its only lead of the game when Black converted a driving layup and finished off the three-point play to give the Great Danes a 39-38 lead with 4:11 remaining. The crowd went wild, and Vermont head coach John Becker called a quick timeout.
Vermont regrouped and scored the next nine points to grab a 47-39 lead. During that run, Black missed a wide-open three that spun in and out, and Sam Rowley had his layup attempt blocked with 2:50 to go.
The nail in the coffin for UAlbany turned out to be a three-pointer by Rusin with 1:30 left. He just beat the buzzer on the shot clock.
“UAlbany is a good team, but we have a history with them,” said Carissimo. “They beat us in the tournament a couple of years ago, but we’ve beaten them since. Whenever we play them, there is a great atmosphere.”
Rusin said the Catamounts put a lot of attention on Black and Iati.
“We were trying to stop them from scoring,” he said.
“Defensively, we did a tremendous job,” Becker said. “In the league, everyone knows everyone else, and you have to be sharper. This was a great win on the road, and it was good to get our swagger back on the road.”
The first half was a defensive dogfight, with Vermont taking a 22-15 advantage into the intermission.
The Catamounts pulled out to a 33-22 lead early in the second half, before Rowley and Peter Hooley began to find the range. Black also began to heat up, but couldn’t carry his team to the finish.
“We are very frustrated that we lost the game,” said Black. “But even though we shot only 29 percent, we still had a chance. I definitely believe that we can beat them. We don’t have any doubt that we can beat anybody in this league. We just have to make shots.”
Despite Black’s sentiments, it appears that Vermont has UAlbany’s number in recent years.
“They are rock-solid, and they don’t beat themselves,” admitted UAlbany head coach Will Brown. “Offensively, they grind you out. We got some pretty good shots, but we couldn’t make them.”
Brown would not admit that his team can’t beat the top-echelon clubs, despite frequent questions on that point from the media.
“We’re not panicking,” he said. “We hadn’t lost two games in a row all year. We are not in a panic mode. Jacob Iati has an Achilles tendon injury, and he’s hurting, but we’ve got to get Mike Black back on track with his shooting He’s getting 500 shots on the shooting machine every night in practice. He’s trying.
“If you don’t win the regular-season title, what it comes down to is just one game. If we don’t win the league, then we’ll try to finish as high as we can.”
John Puk finished with 12 points on 6-for-7 shooting, while Hooley scored 10 points to go along with eight rebounds and three assists.
UAlbany hosts Stony Brook Tuesday.
Voelkel 0-1 0-0 0, Rugg 6-8 2-3 14, O’Day 6-8 1-1 13, Carissimo 3-9 5-6 13, Rusin 4-6 1-3 10, Blue 0-4 0-0 0, Elbaum 0-1 0-0 0, Crenca 0-2 0-0 0. Totals: 19-39 9-13 50.
Rowley 2-7 0-0 4, Puk 6-7 0-0 12, Iati 0-9 0-0 0, Black 3-15 6-9 13, Hooley 3-8 2-2 10, Evans 0-1 0-0 0, Devlin 1-2 0-0 2, Johnson 0-2 0-0 0, Metcalf 1-2 0-1 2, Guerrie 0-1 0-0 0. Totals: 16-54 8-12 43.
Halftime: Vermont, 22-15. Three-point goals: Vermont 3-10 (Voelkel 0-1, Rugg 0-1, Carissimo 2-3, Rusin 1-2, Blue 0-3); UAlbany 3-18 (Iati 0-6, Black 1-6, Hooley 2-5, Guerrier 0-1). Rebounds: Vermont 33 (Rugg 10), UAlbany 30 (Hooley 8). Personal fouls: Vermont 17, UAlbany 17. Officials: Robert Adams, Michael Alvaro, Harkeem Dixon. Attendance: 4,182.