BURLINGTON, Vt. — In the end, the America East championship rematch between the University at Albany and Vermont delivered an intense affair, with Vermont again pulling away late.
But for much of the first half in an eventual 61-50 win for Vermont Wednesday night at Patrick Gymnasium, attention shifted away from action on the court between the Great Danes and Catamounts.
During a media timeout with 11:46 to go and UAlbany leading 11-10, a fan not far from the Vermont bench was rushed to by medical personnel and appeared to receive CPR. Approximately 20 minutes later, that fan was removed from the facility on a stretcher.
But a few minutes after that situation started to unfold, a second fan on the opposite side of the gymnasium also required medical attention. That situation appeared less serious and was quickly resolved, but that fan soon left the facility under his own power.
Stretcher coming for that fan ... and now there seems to be another situation unfolding on the other side of the gym https://t.co/7NmBd3z5ur— Michael Kelly (@ByMichaelKelly) January 25, 2018
“Haven’t experienced anything like that,” said UAlbany head coach Will Brown, who said one of the game’s officials told him the first fan had gone into cardiac arrest, while the second fan had briefly fainted.
After the game, Vermont head coach John Becker said he’d been alerted that the first fan was doing well at a nearby hospital and “cracking jokes.”
“That’s good to hear,” Brown said. “That’s more important than a basketball game. That’s for sure.”
Midway through what ended up as a 25-minute delay, the two teams were sent back to their locker rooms. When UAlbany re-emerged for a brief warmup session, the Great Danes tentatively followed junior David Nichols — who flashed a thumbs-up for approval to an official to make sure the situation was resolved — back onto the court.
“It really puts things in perspective,” Becker said of the situation, which he credited emergency personnel for handling. “All of a sudden, worrying about ball-screen coverage or, you know, mistakes here or there on the basketball court [don’t matter]. We’re talking about life and death here.”
Play resumed with Nichols making a pair of free throws to put UAlbany ahead 13-10. Greig Stire followed Nichols’ free throws with a layup, but Vermont took control from there. The Catamounts ended the half on a 24-8 run to get to the intermission ahead 34-23.
“We lost this game in the first half,” said Brown, whose squad was outrebounded 22-10 in the opening 20 minutes.
In the second half, UAlbany had multiple opportunities to break through against the Catamounts, but never could make good on their chances. Twice, UAlbany had possession with the chance to tie or go ahead — and, each time, Vermont got the stop it needed.
“We were down two a lot, it seemed like,” Brown said.
Vermont took control for good on a wild play. With UAlbany down 45-43 after a basket from Nichols — which gave the junior his 1,000th career point — the Great Danes guard almost intercepted a Vermont pass. Instead, though, the resulting loose ball found its way to Vermont redshirt junior Ernie Duncan for a shot-clock-beating 3-pointer.
“Ernie Duncan hit that shot from the parking lot,” Brown said.
Vermont (7-0, 17-5) maintained at least a five-point lead over UAlbany (4-4, 16-7) the rest of the night, as the Catamounts won their 28th consecutive conference game.
“At most,” Brown said, “they’ll get one loss in the regular season this year. I think we’re the only team that can potentially beat them in the league.”
He added: “I think we’ll get them in the SEFCU Arena.”
UAlbany and Vermont will meet again Feb. 8 in Albany.
Senior Trae Bell-Haynes led Vermont with 21 points, while Stire, a senior, led UAlbany with 14 points.
Nichols added 11 points and fifth-year senior Travis Charles had nine for the Great Danes, while junior Joe Cremo — who was questionable to play because of an ankle injury — had eight on 3 of 10 shooting.
“Points were at a premium,” Becker said. “I thought we really guarded them well.”
Campbell 2-7 2-2 6, Nichols 4-10 2-3 11, Cremo 3-10 2-3 8, Charles 4-9 1-2 9, Stire 6-9 2-2 14, Clark 0-1 0-0 0, Foster 1-5 0-0 2. Totals: 20-51 9-12 50.
Bell-Haynes 7-17 6-11 21, Er. Duncan 3-7 1-1 8, Ev. Duncan 3-10 2-2 10, Urquhart 4-4 2-2 10, Henson 4-10 0-0 10, Smith 0-1 0-0 0, Ward 0-1 0-0 0, Kpedi 1-1 0-0 2, Rohrer 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 22-51 11-16 61.
Halftime score: Vermont 34, UAlbany 23. Three-point shooting: UAlbany 1-11 (Campbell 0-3, Nichols 1-4, Cremo 0-4), Vermont 6-16 (Bell-Haynes 1-4, Er. Duncan 1-3, Ev. Duncan 2-4, Henson 2-4, Smith 0-1). Rebounds: UAlbany 30 (Stire 7), Vermont 35 (Ev. Duncan 11). Assists: UAlbany 3 (Nichols, Stire, Clark 1), Vermont 9 (Er. Duncan 4). Turnovers: UAlbany 11, Vermont 10. Total fouls: UAlbany 17, Vermont 14. Attendance: 3,266.