ALBANY, N.Y. – The UAlbany men’s basketball team honored its seniors then took care of business on Saturday night with an 80-62 win over Hartford to secure the 3-seed in the America East Tournament starting on Wednesday.
Up by seven at the break, UAlbany (19-12, 10-6 AE) shot 53.1% in the second half for 49 total points in the period to run past Hartford (9-22, 4-12 AE).
“I thought this was a good way to close out the season; with senior night, we talked about sending Mike [Rowley] and Dallas [Ennema] out with a regular season win more so than the 3-seed,” said UAlbany head coach Will Brown. “Our guys played good basketball in the second half, that was the way we needed to play.”
With the win, UAlbany is the 3-seed America East Tournament and will rematch against 6-seed Hartford in the quarterfinal round on Wednesday, March 1st at 7:30 p.m. at the SEFCU Arena.
This is the third time in as many seasons that UAlbany will host a quarterfinal game in the America East Tournament as a top-3 seed.
As a team, UAlbany earned 44 points in the paint to Hartford’s 26 plus had 16 fast break points, compared to Hartford’s four.
Before the game, UAlbany honored the careers of its two seniors, Mike Rowley and Dallas Ennema, in a pregame ceremony. Both players started the game, with Ennema netting 11 points, including 3-for-4 from three-point range, and Rowley finishing with six points and three boards.
“I had some good looks, the first jump shot I hit gave me some confidence,” said Ennema.
Joe Cremo tallied up 25 points, five assists, five rebounds and three steals, including going 8-for-8 from the free throw line. David Nichols hit nine field goals for 21 points, three assists and five rebounds.
For Hartford, Jason Dunne had 16 points and two steals while Jack Hobbs ended with seven points, four boards and two assists.
The game began with Hartford firing away from three and UAlbany trying to get to the basket. Early on, a couple of Hawk threes and UAlbany’s struggles from the field gave the visitors a 10-4 advantage six minutes in.
UAlbany turned to its point guard, who in turned went down the lane over and over again. In a three-minute span, Nichols scored three layups, adding a jumper from Ennema as UAlbany tied it up. Next possession, Ennema took the kickout three and buried it, then held off George Blagojevic to stop the lay up. Nichols came back with another score, speeding down the court for the lay up and one to make it 18-12 UAlbany with just over eight minutes left in the 1st.
On his Senior Day, Ennema continued to get the kickouts in transition plays for UAlbany, hitting another two from the wing in a minute’s time to increase the team’s advantage to nine at 24-15.
The two sides went back and forth the rest of the half, with Cremo countering three different Hartford players. UAlbany had a 31-24 advantage at the break.
UAlbany switched gears and went back to the paint early into the second half. Three layups underneath in the opening two minutes, then a 6-0 run following a Hartford jumper, including four points from Cremo, gave UAlbany a 43-28 lead with 15:26 remaining.
Hartford went on an 8-0 run in a span of 64 seconds, sandwiched by a pair of threes, to pull within seven. UAlbany responded by not allowing a field goal in over four minutes, rebuilding the lead to 14 at 54-40 with just under 11 minutes to play.
Following an exchange of free throws, UAlbany broke the Hartford press three times in a row for layups. Cremo added a three from wing to complete the 9-0 run and send UAlbany up 68-45 with 6:27 to go.
Hartford made a late push with seven points in a row, with Cremo hitting four free throws to effectively seal the game. A late Costa Anderson three-pointer helped UAlbany take the win 80-62.
UAlbany earns at least 10 wins in the America East regular season for the third year in a row.