By Kevin Sweeney
Last year, Stony Brook came to SEFCU Arena riding an 18-game winning streak and left with their first loss in 2 months.
Tonight, Vermont entered the same venue with a 8-game winning streak, with Albany looking to once again snap a long streak.
However, the Catamounts made sure that history did not repeat itself, maintaining control throughout en route to a 60-49 win in what may have been the toughest test standing between them and an undefeated conference season. Trae Bell Haynes led the Catamounts with 18 points.
It was an ugly game throughout, with the teams combining to shoot just 36% from the field. In the end, the difference in the game was the Catamounts’ ability to shut down the high-scoring sophomore duo of David Nichols and Joe Cremo, who were held to just 9-33 from the field.
Early on, Albany hung around, using some 1-3-1 zone to slow the Catamounts on offense. Things were sloppy for Vermont, as they missed 4 straight free throws at one point and conceded 7 offensive rebound in the first half. Late in the half, Vermont made their push, closing on a 6-0 run to carry a 31-25 advantage into halftime.
That run carried over into the second half, as Vermont held the Great Danes scoreless for over 7 minutes across the two halves to take a 35-25 lead. Although they were able to shut down the Danes on offense, they couldn’t pull away, missing a few 3’s that felt like daggers. While Albany had the girth advantage down low, their bigs struggled to get position or finish against the Vermont big men, missing lots of in-close attempts.
The Catamounts final dealt the crushing blow with just over 5 minutes to play, when a transition 3 by Ernie Duncan gave UVM a 53-38 lead.
The only time from then on where the Danes seemed to a have a glimmer of hope came with just over a minute to play, when Ernie Duncan missed the front end of a one-and-one to keep the Danes within 9. However, Travis Charles’ outlet pass hit an unsuspecting Cremo in the back as he ran up the floor, and the ball rolled out of bounds. That sent the remaining fans to the exits, as the small Catamounts cheering section rose to their feet to applaud their team on a good road win.
Kurt Steidl added 10 points for Vermont, while Darren Payen and Dre Wills each contributed 8 off the bench.
Joe Cremo had 13 points and a career-high 11 rebounds for the Great Danes. Nichols added 12 points.
Vermont concludes a stretch of 3 road games in 4 games with a Saturday trip to Long Island to take on Stony Brook. Albany will look to get back on track Saturday at Hartford.