Danes can’t hold lead in opener

Gaels force turnovers in sec­ond half to over­come Ualbany’s ad­van­tage

Albany Times Union - - SPORTS - By Pete Dougherty

Open­ing night in the out­skirts of New York City re­vealed a lit­tle of every­thing for the Univer­sity at Al­bany bas­ket­ball team.

Coach Will Brown used 11 play­ers in the first half — some would say that nearly dou­bles what he is com­fort­able with — to start the sea­son against Iona.

The Great Danes showed a lot, tak­ing a 15-point lead in the first half, but they couldn’t close against the Gaels, who forced 22 turnovers in a 72-68 vic­tory Fri­day night at Hynes Cen­ter.

“For us com­ing in here, it was about learn­ing what we have,” said Brown, whose squad re­turned just two schol­ar­ship play­ers from last sea­son. “Youth and in­ex­pe­ri­ence and play­ing guys ... the dis­ap­point­ing thing is we put our­selves in a po­si­tion to win the game. As good as Iona is, you can’t hurt your­self as much as we did.”

There was plenty of good. Ju­nior point guard Ah­mad Clark, no longer in the shadow of David Ni­chols, scored a ca­reer-high 21 points be­fore foul­ing out with 2:53 to play. Devonte Camp­bell, the only other reg­u­lar back, con­trib­uted 17 points and 10 re­bounds.

Ualbany made 15 of 16 free throws to stay in the game, but that was off­set by the turnovers and 10-for-34 (29 per­cent) shoot­ing from in­side the 3-point arc.

Be­yond the num­bers, what got Iona, which has only two re­turn­ing play­ers it­self, over the hump was the abil­ity to quicken the pace, some­thing the Danes had un­der con­trol in the first half.

“Our de­fen­sive in­ten­sity and our pres­sure helped us a lot,” Iona coach Tim Cluess said. “We got a cou­ple of turnovers, we got out off some re­bounds be­cause we re­bounded the ball bet­ter, and got down the court bet­ter.”

The Danes trailed for only 30 sec­onds, at 1-0, over the first 29 min­utes of the game. Ben

Lopez’s 3-pointer with 10:56 to play gave the Gaels a 46-44 ad­van­tage.

There were six lead changes to­tal, the last com­ing on Isa­iah Still’s fast-break layup with 4:46 re­main­ing, giv­ing Iona a 62-60 edge that it wouldn’t re­lin­quish.

“Twenty-two turnovers is dis­ap­point­ing, and the bas­kets that we gave up off the turnovers put us at a dis­ad­van­tage,” Brown said. “Good win for Iona. Our guys com­peted. We’ll have some good film to learn from.”

As ex­pected, Ualbany started its three red­shirt fresh­men from Aus­tralia. Two were fac­tors.

Guard Cameron Healy scored 14 points. He also had five turnovers, but he also drew three charg­ing fouls in the sec­ond half.

For­ward Adam Lulka had eight points, six re­bounds

and three turnovers in 27 min­utes.

“For a lot of guys it was their first D-I game,” Camp­bell said. “My ob­jec­tive go­ing into the game off the bounce, try­ing to get th­ese guys ac­cli­mated.”

Early on, the Danes did just that, open­ing leads of 11-1, 18-4 and 23-8. When Lulka and 6-10 cen­ter Brent Hank (no points, two re­bounds in 15 min­utes), the third Aussie starter, each picked up his sec­ond foul, Brown shuf­fled through his bench to eval­u­ate his play­ers.

Re­sults were mixed, but Ualbany had a 30-26 half­time lead.

“We were very stag­nant,” Cluess said of the start. “Part of that is credit to Al­bany’s de­fense on us in the first half.”

Down the stretch, Ualbany em­ployed four perime­ter play­ers to help with ball preser­va­tion, but that made

it dif­fi­cult to score in­side. In­clud­ing twice when they were fouled on 3-point­ers, the Danes got more than half of their of­fense from out­side, mak­ing 11 of 24 of their lon­grange tries.

Clark was the key trig­ger man, hit­ting 5 of 7 from out­side, but he was lost af­ter two ques­tion­able foul calls in the sec­ond half.

“They did a good job of try­ing to speed me up and forced the ref to make a call,” Clark said. “I’ve just got to con­trol my tempo.”

Next up for the Danes is their home opener Wed­nes­day night against Bos­ton Univer­sity.

“When we look at the film,” Camp­bell said, “we’re go­ing to see a lot of things down the stretch that we can im­prove on.”

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