University at Albany took out all the frustration of its last three losses on the Binghamton Bearcats during the 16th annual Big Purple Growl.
Both Mike Black and Jacob Iati snapped out of their shooting slumps, Jayson Guerrier clicked for 18 points by converting six of eight shots from the floor and the Great Danes crushed the Bearcats, 79-46, before a crowd of 4,392 at SEFCU Arena.
By ending their three-game losing streak, the Great Danes improved to 6-4 in the America East Conference and 17-7 overall. Binghamton dropped to 1-8 and 3-19.
Black, the team’s leading scorer who shot just 9-for-57 in his last four games, collected 13 points on 5-for-8 shooting, while Iati, suffering with Achilles tendon injuries to both feet, scored 16 points by shooting 6-for-8.
As a team, the Great Danes shot 55.4 percent from the floor, clicked for 11 of 23 shots from beyond the arc and held the Bearcats to just 14 points in the first half. That total was the second-lowest defensive performance for the Great Danes in the Division I era.
Eleven players scored, and 13 Great Danes made an appearance for UAlbany, which held a 34-22 edge in rebounding.
“I thought the fact that everybody got involved is nice,” said UAlbany head coach Will Brown. “Mike had been struggling with his shooting, and Jacob was struggling with his health. Both of them got into a good shooting rhythm. A win doesn’t cure everything, but the kids’ psyches are improved.
“Every team has to handle adversity at some point,” Brown added. “We had to stop the bleeding.”
Both Black and Iati were relieved that their shooting touch returned, but they were more thrilled about the team’s one-sided victory.
“The first shot I made got the monkey off my back. After that, I felt good,” said Black. “It’s been a tough couple of games, but I didn’t lose my confidence.”
“I felt good. I think I was in better shape by going back to practice,” said Iati. “My feet feel pretty good. I care that we won more than I care about how many points we scored. The fact that I wasn’t playing well was one of the reasons we lost.”
Sophomore forward Sam Rowley contributed six points, seven rebounds and four assists. “It’s everything that we won,” he said. “It was a tough stretch.”
“It was all about our defense tonight,” said Guerrier. “Plus, we got into a good shooting rhythm, and we hit some open shots.”
Binghamton used a zone defense against the Danes for most of the game, but it didn’t work as UAlbany finally began to make shots that it had missed over the previous three games.
“You’ve got to give credit where credit is due,” said Binghamton head coach Tommy Dempsey. “They were clearly the better team. They took it to us. It was set up for them to succeed. They had a great atmosphere, and they were hungry for a win. They have the better players right now.”
Dempsey said he wasn’t surprised that the Great Danes struggled recently, only to bounce back against his team.
“Most teams go through a couple of weeks when they are not playing that well, and when you are playing better teams on your schedule at that time, you are going to struggle,” Dempsey said. “We just didn’t have answers for Albany tonight. I think they are a very good basketball team, and I expect them to be a factor at the end of the season.”
After cruising to a 40-14 halftime advantage, the Danes led by as many as 37 (68-31) with 7:34 left.
“Any time you lose a game, it’s tough on the team,” said Black. “This is very good for us. It gives us a lot of confidence. We came out and had a lot of fun.”
“We were patient against their zone. We moved the ball well and got their defense to shift,’ said Brown. “We also made the extra pass.
“Defensively, we weren’t going to let Jordan Reed and Jimmy Gray beat us. The other nice thing was that we got some players who work very hard in practice in the game. A lot of people contributed for us tonight.”
Brown went to his bench early and seldom-used players like Chris Page, Dave Wiegmann and walk-on Reece Williams logged some minutes. Gary Johnson produced seven points, including a slam dunk on an alley-oop pass from backup point guard DJ Evans that brought the house down. He also grabbed five rebounds, made three steals and was credited with three assists.
Brian Freeman and Reed scored 14 each for Binghamton.
UAlbany plays its next two games on the road, including Wednesday’s game at UMBC.
Ralling 2-4 0-0 4, Freeman 6-10 2-4 14, Reed 5-12 4-6 14, Gray 5-10 0-0 12, Horn 0-2 0-0 0, Waller 0-1 0-0 0, Moquete 0-1 0-0 0, Ogundadegbe 1-2 0-0 2, Johnston 0-0 0-0 0, Rice 0-1 0-0 0, Brown 0-2 0-0 0, Williams 0-2 0-0 0. Totals: 19-47 6-10 46.
Rowley 3-5 0-1 6, Puk 0-0 0-0 0, Iati 6-8 0-0 16, Black 5-8 2-2 13, Hooley 2-4 2-2 7, Williams 1-2 0-0 2, Evans 0-3 0-0 0, Devlin 1-3 0-0 2, Johnson 3-8 1-2 7, Metcalf 2-2 0-0 4, Wiegmann 1-2 0-0 2, Page 1-3 0-0 2, Guerrier 6-8 1-1 18. Totals: 31-56 6-8 79.
Halftime: UAlbany, 40-14. Three-point goals: Binghamton 2-12 (Reed 0-1, Gray 2-5, Horn 0-1, Waller 0-1, Rice 0-1, Brown 0-1, Williams 0-2); UAlbany 11-23 (Iati 4-6, Black 1-3, Hooley 1-3, Evans 0-2, Johnson 0-1, Page 0-1, Guerrier 5-7). Rebounds: Binghamton 22 (Reed 6); UAlbany 34 (Rowley 7). Assists: Binghamton 9 (Gray 3); UAlbany 23 (Hooley 7). Personal fouls: Binghamton 11, UAlbany 11. Officials: Kevin Ferguson, Alan Libardoni, Doug Grant. Attendance: 4,392.