ALBANY — Their leading scorer missed his first dozen shots. Their defense broke down too often. Their deficit grew to as many as 17 points in the second half.
Yet, somehow, the Great Danes with their nearly all-new cast from a season ago found a way to force overtime Tuesday at SEFCU Arena in a game they had no business making competitive.
“This group, I think, grew up a little bit and just battled,” University at Albany head coach Will Brown said.
In the end, the Great Danes fell 69-65 against Holy Cross. That hurt in the moment, especially after UAlbany’s 13-0 run to finish regulation, but the Great Danes gained more than they lost in their almost-comeback win.
“We didn’t make it happen,” UAlbany senior Devonte Campbell said, “but I’m glad we’re going through a game like this now.”
For most of Tuesday’s game, UAlbany struggled. In all, the Great Danes made 23 of 63 shots and led for all of 38 seconds. But after Holy Cross went ahead 56-43 on a 3-pointer with 6:35 to go, UAlbany got one defensive stop after another and chipped away at the Crusaders’ lead.
“We were just a lot more aggressive,” said UAlbany redshirt freshman Cameron Healy, who had a game-high 22 points in 44 minutes. “Showed a lot of heart trying to get back into the game.”
Healy started that comeback with a 3, while Campbell closed it with a 3 with less than 10 seconds to play in regulation. Holy Cross helped out in between those made 3s, as the Crusaders missed their final seven shots of regulation.
In overtime, though, Holy Cross scored the first eight points and never had a lead smaller than three in the final 3:53 of play.
Before playing UAlbany (2-3), Holy Cross (4-2) had topped Siena College in a game played Sunday at Mohegan Sun Arena in Connecticut. Holy Cross’ head coach is Bill Carmody, a 1975 Union College graduate who came away impressed with the resilience of the Great Danes.
“They could have easily just packed it in, and they just kept coming at us, coming at us,” Carmody said. “We didn’t handle it well. They certainly deserve a lot of credit for making every play they had to make.”
That was despite UAlbany junior Ahmad Clark suffering through a rough night. Plagued with foul trouble throughout the contest, Clark missed his first 12 shots and finished 1 of 14 to score four points. Clark entered the game averaging a team-best 19.8 points per game on 50.0 percent shooting.
“If you would have told me before the game that Ahmad was going to go 1 for 14, play 25 of 45 minutes and we were going to have a chance to win in overtime, I probably would tell you [that] you’re crazy,” Brown said.
What Clark told his teammates and coaches after the game showed the developing maturity of the Great Danes’ new star. Both Brown and Clark felt the player — who was a reserve last season — lost his composure when some early foul calls went against him, and Brown said the junior addressed that in the locker room.
“He apologized to the team in the locker room for the loss,” Brown said. “That’s just the type of kid he is.”
For Holy Cross, sophomore Jacob Grandison scored 17 points.
Besides Healy’s 22 points, UAlbany received a dozen from Campbell and seven from redshirt freshman Brent Hank. For the game, UAlbany outdid Holy Cross 45-32 on the glass.
Tuesday’s loss was UAlbany’s second game in a back-to-back stretch. No starter, though, played more than 22 minutes in Monday’s 79-62 win against Division III SUNY Oneonta.
UAlbany next plays Friday at Milwaukee. The Great Danes take confidence into that one from the way they finished Tuesday’s second half.
“But,” Healy said, “obviously we need to do a better job so we’re not in that position again.”
Grandison 6-12 3-4 17, Faw 3-4 1-2 9, Floyd 4-5 4-8 12, Green 6-13 0-0 12, Butler 4-9 1-2 9, Copeland 0-1 0-0 0, Niego 0-2 0-0 0, Benzan 3-10 3-4 10, Hargis 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 26-56 12-20 69.
Hank 2-2 3-4 7, Campbell 4-9 1-2 12, Lulka 3-6 0-0 6, Clark 1-14 1-4 4, Healy 8-17 2-2 22, Miller 2-6 0-0 5, Brooks 1-5 0-0 3, French 0-0 0-0 0, Lauderdale 2-4 2-2 6. Totals: 23-63 9-14 65.
Halftime: Holy Cross 29, UAlbany 20. Three-point shooting: Holy Cross 5-17, UAlbany 10-28. Rebounds: Holy Cross 32 (Green 7), UAlbany 45 (Campbell 9). Assists: Holy Cross 18 (Floyd 6), UAlbany 16 (Clark, Healy 4). Turnovers: Holy Cross 9, UAlbany 15. Total fouls: Holy Cross 12, UAlbany 22. Fouled out: Faw, Campbell. Attendance: 1,614.
Reach Michael Kelly at [email protected] or @ByMichaelKelly on Twitter.