BURLINGTON, V.T. — Looking to snap a four-game losing streak, the University at Albany men’s basketball team visited first-place Vermont on Tuesday night in their regular-season finale. With one game remaining, UAlbany could clinch anything from the four-seed to the seven-seed, depending on Tuesday’s results, in the upcoming America East Tournament. Against the Catamounts, however, who had already locked up the top-overall seed, the Great Danes fell behind at halftime and couldn’t make much headway in the second half, ultimately falling by a final score of 85-62.
Tuesday’s game began with a sequence previously agreed upon by head coach Will Brown and Vermont head coach John Becker. Josh Speidel, who suffered a traumatic brain injury in a car accident before arriving on campus as a freshman, was honored with his senior-year classmates as part of Vermont’s Senior Night. Speidel had his scholarship honored for his four years, and suited up for the first time tonight.
As previously agreed upon by the two head coaches, UAlbany won the opening tip and scored an uncontested layup. Vermont took possession and passed the ball around before finding Speidel under the hoop for an uncontested layup, his first points as a Catamount. The game was temporarily paused to honor Speidel coming off the court.
“It was a great evening to be a part of,” said UAlbany Head Coach Will Brown. “We obviously wish we would have played a little bit better, but we’re happy for Josh Speidel and his family. There was an unbelievable turnout for this, and it was well-deserved. I thought we got some good looks in the first half, and I thought in the second half we came out and we competed. A new season begins on Saturday, and we have to be ready to go.”
Vermont’s Daniel Giddens was on fire early, converting three dunks through the beginning of the half. Scoring came at a premium early on, with Vermont leading 10-7 through the first six minutes of the game.
Ahmad Clark drained a three with 13:55 left in the first to tie the game at 10. Vermont answered right away with a three on the other end to go back up by three. The basket sparked a 29-12 run for the Catamounts that lasted the remainder of the first half.
Clark scored a layup to cut the lead to one before Vermont scored the next four to take a 17-12 lead with 11:44 left before halftime. Kendall Lauderdale drew a foul on a layup and hit the free throw to cut Vermont’s lead to two with 10:29 remaining.
Trey Hutcheson hit a three to keep pace with Vermont, cutting into Vermont’s lead to 21-18 with 8:59 to go. Vermont went on a 7-0 run over the next three minutes to take their first double-digit lead of the game.
Vermont led 39-22 at the break, ending the first half on an 11-3 run. Clark led UAlbany with 10 points on 4-7 shooting, including 2-3 from three. Vermont had shot 43.3% from the floor in the first while holding UAlbany to just 28.6% shooting, and forcing 12 UAlbany turnovers.
UAlbany scored the first four points coming out of halftime, narrowing Vermont’s lead to 39-26. Antonio Rizzuto knocked down two threes early in the second and UAlbany closed within 11 with 16:28 to go after yet another three from Romani Hansen.
Rizzuto’s third three of the second half kept UAlbany’s deficit at just 11, but within two-and-a-half minutes Vermont had pushed its lead to 20 for the first time. From there, UAlbany would close within no closer than 16, and Vermont went on to win by 23, 85-62.
Clark finished with a team-high 19 points and six assists. Rizzuto added 12, and Hutcheson grabbed eight rebounds. UAlbany heated up from behind the arc in the second half, knocking down seven of 15 attempts. Overall, the Great Danes shot nearly 50% from the floor after halftime, but Vermont shot 72.0% over the same stretch, finishing 56.4% for the night. The Catamounts outscored UAlbany 40-22 in the paint and 36-18 off the bench.
The Great Danes’ defeat, their fifth-straight to end the season, marks the team’s first five-game losing streak since the 2010-11 season. Coupled with a UMass Lowell victory at New Hampshire, UAlbany falls to the seven-seed in the upcoming America East Tournament.
Next: The America East Tournament begins Saturday, March 7. UAlbany has drawn the seven-seed and will play two-seed Stony Brook.