Albany defeated Siena 81-72 at SEFCU Arena on Sunday night, taking back the Albany Cup. The Saints fell behind by 18 at halftime, and then mounted a furious second half scoring assault that fell just a bit short. Foul trouble and defense bedeviled Siena, while Albany improved to 4-2 behind David Nichols’ 29 points and Joe Cremo’s 20.
A few Albany-related notes on the game:
There is definite beef about the future of the Albany Cup.
The short background: the game between Siena and Albany as the Albany Cup has been played for 16 years. Each year before this one, the game was in the far larger Times Union Center in downtown Albany. It’s a fine enough place, walking distance to downtown eateries, nearby for a chunk of the local workforce, fairly accessible by highway, and it seats 10,000 if need be.
Last night the game was played in front of a sellout crowd of 4,538, on the University at Albany campus.
For weeks, the head coaches of the two teams—Albany’s Will Brown and Siena’s Jimmy Patsos—sniped about the game. It continued last night, with the specter of the game being discontinued after next year’s matchup at the Times Union Center in the air.
“Great atmosphere tonight at the SEFCU Arena,” Brown said. “It was a great basketball atmosphere. The Siena basketball fans have great pride [but] this is supposed to be a series. Not that my opinion matters much, I’m just the hoops coach here, but this is where it belongs every other year. This is supposed to be a series as far as I understand it. There’s no other series in the country where a team goes to the other team’s home floor every year.
“My expectation is that the game [in 2018] is in the SEFCU Arena. I get it that they don’t want to come here and play. But hey, that’s what you do in a series.”
When asked about the series and the continuation, Jimmy Patsos said “[AD] John D’Argenio and myself have an appointment, so we’ll be happy to talk to you next week. I thought it was a fun place to play.”
Albany’s David Nichols (29 points) is a player.
“I’ve known David’s potential since last year,” said teammate Travis Charles. “People didn’t see David play last year, it doesn’t surprise me either. He was on a mission. It’s nothing new.”
Nichols was a bull all game—taking Siena’s long misses or outlet passes and putting pressure on Siena’s transition defense. He used a skillful dribble to keep his opponents turning in transition, freeing himself up for layups and passes during Albany’s first six possessions on his way to a career-high 29 points on 7-16 shooting inside the arc and 3-4 shooting outside the arc. He earned an admirer in Siena’s Patsos as well.
“Nichols clearly worked on his game [in the offseason],” Patsos said. “He clearly channeled that energy of not playing, with the knowledge of playing behind guys like [Evan] Singletary and [Ray] Sanders and [Peter] Hooley and turned that into a great player. That guy kicked our butts. he was just tough.”
Unlike Siena, Albany came prepared with cool heads.
Brown thought his team executed pretty well. “Offensively we executed the game plan to a T,” he said. “Defensively, we did for 30 minutes. We did a really nice job of controlling tempo. We thought if we were patient offensively they would foul us. Our concerns coming into this game were transition defense, rebounding, foul trouble and valuing the basketball.”
Albany had six turnovers (9% of its possessions), allowed Siena to rebound 23% of its misses (not terrible), and allowed eight points off of turnovers.
On his performance, Nichols talked about the need to remain even and play within the game plan. “Can’t get too high, can’t get too low have to stay even. As the point guard you’re the coach on the court. Your teammates are feeding off of you. If you get too high when things are too good, you might relax; if you get too low and down on everybody, things might fall apart.
“It was important to follow the game plan and what coach put in front of us and just execute as best we can. My teammates did a great job of getting me the ball, finding openings when I was pressured so I could pass it out, and they did a great job making shots. It was really coming out, executing the game plan, finding my spots to attack and facilitating when I could.”