ALBANY — A night that was supposed to be all about Joe Cremo, honored before Saturday’s game against
Columbia for scoring his 1,000 career points for the UAlbany men’s basketball program, almost turned into a much different story when the Great Danes trailed by 10 points with 12:56 to play in the second half.
“We put ourselves in a tough spot being down 10,” Cremo said. “We found a way. We have a lot of things to clean up.”
Cremo’s ceremony took place at center court just before tip-off of UAlbany’s 86-82 win against Columbia Saturday, but the Scotia native, who finished the game with 25 points, kept his focus on the task at hand, not on achievements of the past.
“It was nice in front of everybody, and I know there’s a lot of Scotia fans that came out to the game today, so it meant a lot to me, in front of a lot of my old coaches and stuff, but at the same time, since we got the win today, it made it that much better.
A win against a Columbia team that entered Saturday’s contest with a 1-5 record seemed inevitable with UAlbany off to its best start through eight games in its Division I program history. That is, until the second half started.
“In the second half in the first seven or eight minutes we played no defense,” head coach Will Brown said. “None.”
The Lions hit as many shots from the field the second half as they had in the entire first half, shooting 10 of 12 and jumping out to a 51-41 lead.
“We struggle against the teams like Columbia, Holy Cross, Colgate that have shooting forwards and really spread the floor,” Brown said. “This was a good test for us. We did not play well.
“Don’t be fooled by their record, I think they’ve played Villanova, Penn State, UConn. They’re good.”
The Great Danes only shot 11-for-33 in a first half that was sluggish on both sides. In the second half, 113 points were scored between the two teams.
“I think what happens is when one team scores,” Brown said, “the next team has a sense of urgency to score so they score, now we gotta score and I think both teams got into a little bit of a flow offensively, whereas the first half set basketball back a decade.”
“That was the slowest game in the history of college basketball and then the fastest and most offensive game in the second half,” Columbia head coach Jim Engels said. “There was no defense being played in the second half, and no offense being played in the first half.”
David Nichols finished with a game-high 29 points for the Great Danes, scoring 19 in the second half and hitting a three-pointer that put UAlbany ahead for the final time 82-79 in the game’s waning moments. The junior guard also finished with five steals.
“We knew a lot of their actions and a lot of their actions were similar to ours,” Nichols said of his defense. “I know a couple of times I went for steals when I shouldn’t have and coach let me know about that.”
Mike Smith led Columbia with 27 points, scoring 22 in the second half of a game that featured 11 ties and 10 lead changes.
The Great Danes, typically a team that controls the glass, only outrebounded Columbia 37-36. Columbia’s bench outscored UAlbany’s 33-4.
“Our bench is way behind right now,” Brown said. “I have to get those guys more minutes. I have to trust them more. But they got to work with me a little bit.
“We’re 8-1 right now and we have to get better. There’s no other way to look at it right now. And we will.”
Lukas Meisner 2-7 3-4 9, Quinton Adlesh 3-6 0-0 7, Smith 8-18 6-8 27, Hickman 3-6 0-1 6, Hunter 1-2 0-0 2, Stefanini 5-6 0-2 11, Bibbs 1-5 1-2 3, Faulds 8-10 1-2 17. Totals: 31-62 11-18 82.
Campbell 2-5 6-6 10, Charles 5-8 3-4 13, Stire 1-4 3-5 5, Nichols 11-21 4-4 29, Cremo 7-13 8-8 25, Clark 1-3 0-0 2, Foster 1-6 0-2 8. Totals: 28-62 24-29 86.
Halftime score: UAlbany 29, Columbia 26. Three-point shooting: Columbia 9-21 (Meisner 2-4, Adlesh 1-3, Smith 5-9, Hickman 0-1, Stefanini 1-2, Bibbs 0-2), UAlbany 6-13 (Campbell 0-1, Nichols 3-5, Cremo 3-4, Anderson 0-1, Clark 0-1, Conway 0-1). Rebounds: Columbia 36 (Meisner 11), UAlbany 37 (Stire 10). Assists: Columbia 19 (Meisner 6), UAlbany 13 (Nichols 4). Turnovers: Columbia 16, UAlbany 13. Total fouls: Columbia 25, UAlbany 15. Fouled out: Tape. Technicals: Brown. Attendance: 2,208.