University at Albany was almost bounced out of the Times Union Center by a fired-up Siena squad in the first half of Friday night’s rivalry game.
But the Great Danes put the defensive clamps down in the second half, and Australians Sam Rowley and Peter Hooley combined for 26 points in the final 20 minutes to help UAlbany overtake the Saints, 74-62, before an energized crowd of 11,311.
The Great Danes won their second consecutive Albany Cup and took local bragging rights for the third time in the last four years. Their win also spoiled the debut of new Siena head coach Jimmy Patsos.
Siena, which started three freshmen in its starting lineup, jumped on the Danes from the opening tap and coasted to a 20-7 lead. The Saints eventually carved out a 32-16 cushion before the Danes rallied to claw within 37-31 at intermission.
But Rowley and Hooley each scored 13 points in the second half, and the Danes held the Saints without a basket for nearly six minutes until Rob Poole converted a driving layup with just 26.7 seconds remaining.
Siena was 0-for-16 from three-point range in the second half.
“We knew we had a chance if we competed on the defensive end,” said Hooley. “We managed to put bodies on bodies. We knew the first half wasn’t Albany basketball. We weathered that storm, and in the second half, we knew we would play better.”
UAlbany head coach Will Brown was concerned about the Saints’ youthful enthusiasm — and raw talent.
“Their younger guys outplayed our veterans in the first half,” said Brown, whose team is coming off a successful 2012-2013 season that included the America East Conference tournament title and a berth in the NCAAs. “I knew their freshmen would come out with a ton of energy.”
Brown said the Danes didn’t play their style of basketball until the second half.
“I thought we played the way we were capable of in the second half,” he said. “We played our tempo, and we imposed our will on them, attacking the rim. Their zone got us out of rhythm, but then we defended better. Our goal was for them to shoot contested jump shots. Plus, they [the Saints] got tired.”
Siena shot 50 percent from the floor during the first half, and Poole connected for 10 points. But he finished with only 15. Freshman guard Maurice White led the Saints with 17 points on 11-for-14 shooting from the line. Freshman Lavon Long added 15 points, while freshman point guard Marquis Wright added eight points and six assists. Imoh Silas grabbed 11 rebounds.
Rowley and Hooley both finished with 17 points, while Rowley topped the Danes in rebounding with nine. Senior point guard D.J. Evans chipped in with 12 points and six steals.
Senior Gary Johnson produced nine points and six rebounds for the Danes. Hooley was 10-for-10 from the line.
“That was a great game,” said Patsos. “But they pay us to win. We were 4-for-24 from three. We took too many threes, and that’s my fault. I told our guys, ‘Let’s drive the ball to the basket,’ but I guess I have a lot of teaching to do. Still, there was much more good than bad tonight.”
Patsos said that even though the Saints held a 44-38 edge on the boards, the Danes grabbed the key rebounds when it counted.
“I thought we took some bad shots,” he said. “Albany is a good team. They have four seniors who played in the NCAAs. There are some habits on this team that I’m going to break.”
UAlbany took its first lead of the game, 43-42, when Hooley canned a pair of free throws with 15:27 remaining.
The Danes then continued their 16-4 spurt to take a 55-44 advantage with 10:22 left.
But Siena was not through yet.
Poole hit a jumper, Long powered his way into the lane, and White converted a three-point play before Wright hit back-to-back jumpers to tie the score at 55-55 with 6:58 left.
When UAlbany center John Puk was fouled on the next possession, Patsos was whistled for a technical foul. He said later he thought it was because he was out of the coaches’ box when he argued the call.
Hooley made two free throws on the technical, but the Saints retook the lead, 58-57, on a Poole free throw and a Wright driving layup.
Hooley’s trey and Puk’s baseline jumper put UAlbany back on top for good, 62-58.
Siena missed four free throws in the final three minutes.
Brown said one of the keys for the Danes was shutting down Poole in the second half.
“We thought Poole would have to score a lot of points for us to lose,” Brown said. “Also, our bench carried us until we woke up in the second half.”
UAlbany made 28 of 36 free throws, while Siena was 12-for-23.
“Our record is 0-0, because it’s all about the MAAC,” said Patsos, who spent nine years as the head coach at Loyola. “I’m worried about the MAAC.”
S. Rowley 6-9 5-8 17, Johnson 3-6 3-3 9, Puk 2-5 0-1 4, Evans 2-9 7-8 12, Hooley 3-11 10-10 17, Odunsi 0-0 0-0 0, Shengelia 2-3 0-1 4, Haas 2-4 1-2 6, M. Rowley 0-2 2-2 2, Devlin 0-2 0-1 0, Wiegmnn 1-1 0-0 3. Totals: 21-52 28-36 74.
Ogunyemi 3-5 0-0 6, Long 5-9 0-4 11, Poole 6-14 1-3 15, Wright 4-12 0-1 8, Hymes 1-4 0-0 3, Oliver 0-1 0-0 0, Cruz 0-0 0-0 0, White 3-10 11-14 17, Wolfe 0-0 0-0 0, Bisping 0-2 0-1 0, Silas 1-5 0-0 2. Totals: 23-62 12-23 62.
Halftime: Siena, 37-31. Three-point goals: UAlbany 4-10 (Evans 1-3, Hooley 1-3, Haas 1-3, Wiegmann 1-1); Siena 4-24 (Long 1-1, Poole 2-9, Wright 0-4, Hymes 1-3, Oliver 0-1, White 0-5, Bisping 0-1). Rebounds: UAlbany 38 (S. Rowley 9), Siena 44 (Silas 11). Assists: UAlbany 8 (Evans 2), Siena 12 (Wright 6). Personal fouls: UAlbany 22, Siena 26. Officials: John Hughes, Bob Adams, Bill McCarthy. Attendance: 11,311.