University at Albany got key contributions from some unusual sources, and the foul-plagued Great Dane really needed all the help they could get in Friday night’s non-conference game with Yale.
Senior center John Puk, who averages just 5.5 points per game, recorded 13 points, including several key free throws down the stretch before fouling out; lightly used senior backup Luke Devlin added nine points, six rebounds and four assists; and freshman Dallas Ennema chipped in with eight points in his first collegiate appearance to enable the Great Danes to hold off the Bulldogs, 70-62, at SEFCU Arena.
Senior guard DJ Evans finished with 14 points, nine rebounds, three assists and three steals, and junior guard Peter Hooley added 13 points as the Great Danes moved over the .500 mark at 6-5.
Yale (5-6), coached by 1986 UAlbany graduate James Jones, shot just 31.6 percent from the floor but stayed in the game by making 22 of 27 free throws. UAlbany didn’t get to the line at all until the final nine minutes of the game and ended up shooting 16-for-21.
After a sluggish first half, when Yale shot just 7-for-31 from the floor, the Danes used a 14-2 run to take a 41-28 led on an Evans three with 12:18 to go. It was only the second three-pointer of the game for UAlbany, which finished 4-for-11 from beyond the arc.
The Great Danes still held a comfortable 52-41 edge with 8:49 to go after Hooley made both ends of a one-and-one, but then the Bulldogs’ press started to pay dividends as Yale eventually sliced its deficit to 62-58 following a turnover by Evans and a follow-up rebound by Brandon Sherrod.
But the Danes, in deep foul trouble in the second half, were able to clinch the game at the line with Puk, Hooley and Evans sinking clutch foul shots in the final minute.
Perhaps the most surprising performance came from Devlin, a former starter earlier in his career but a player who has been relegated to the deep bench the last two seasons because of an assortment of injuries. A back injury this season usually prevented him from playing more than one short stint per game. He was averaging just 10.9 minutes and 2.4 points per contest.
“I got the back loose. It felt pretty good tonight,” said Devlin. “My back hasn’t been consistent, as far as how it feels each day, but I made sure I did everything I could to keep it loose tonight. I stretched out and kept riding the bike every time I came out of the game. It was good to finally contribute.”
“I feel fantastic for Luke,” said junior Sam Rowley, a fellow Australian. “He works harder than everyone, and I was so happy for him to get a chance to help out.”
“It was the first time in a while that he looked bouncy out there,” said UAlbany head coach Will Brown of Devlin. “After the first half, I asked him if he could play anymore. He was riding the bike at halftime, and I asked him if he wanted to give it a try in the second half. Then, when we got into foul trouble, I asked him if he wanted to go in again. I think we put him in the game four times tonight, and that’s probably two or three more times than we usually do. I love the guy. He’s tremendous, and he has a great attitude.”
Ennema hadn’t played in the Great Danes’ first 10 games, but earlier this week he was told he would finally get some playing time.
“Coach told me at practice this week that he would give me a chance,” said Ennema, a 6-foot-6 forward from Sheldon, Iowa. “I was waiting patiently. It was hard not playing, but I knew I was a freshman, so I was just waiting my turn.”
“I told Dallas that I was going to play him, but I also told him that he would have to take some shots and not be afraid to shoot,” said Brown. “The good thing about him was that he not only made some shots, but he spread the floor for us.”
Yale was led by Javier Duren with 26 points. Justin Sears, the Bulldogs’ top scorer at 18.3 ppg, was held to just seven points.
The Great Danes play at Drake Monday night, and then are off for Christmas before traveling to Pittsburgh on New Year’s Eve.
Cotton 1-9 4-4 6, Duren 8-15 7-8 26, Victor 2-7 4-6 8, Sears 2-7 3-3 7, Sherrod 1-3 4-4 6, Dallier 0-3 0-0 0, Pritchard 0-2 0-0 0, Salafia 2-7 0-0 5, Kelley 0-1 0-2 0, Townsend 2-3 0-0 4. Totals: 18-57 22-27 62.
Evans 5-9 3-4 14, Hooley 3-8 6-6 13, S. Rowley 3-10 1-2 7, Johnson 1-4 0-1 2, Puk 4-8 5-6 13, Shengelia 1-1 0-0 2, Haas 0-0 0-0 0, Devlin 4-5 1-2 9, Wiegman 1-2 0-0 2, Ennema 3-4 0-0 8. Totals: 25-51 16-21 70.
Halftime: UAlbany, 25-22. Three-point goals: Yale 4-19 (Cotton 0-5, Duren 3-6, Pritchard 0-2, Salafia 1-5, Kelley 0-1); UAlbany 4-11 (Evans 1-3, Hooley 1-5, Ennema 2-3). Rebounds: Yale 32 (Sherrod 6, Townsend 6); UAlbany 37 (Evans 9). Assists: Yale 4 (Victor 2), UAlbany 12 (Devlin 4). Total fouls: Yale 19, UAlbany 23. Fouled out: S. Rowley, Puk. Attendance: 2,108.