Tuesday, November 18, 2008

UAlbany Basketball's Second-Half Charge Held Off By Big East Opponent DePaul, 75-64

Courtesy: UAlbany Sports Information

Chicago, Ill. -- Dar Tucker had 23 points and Will Walker added 19 in leading DePaul to a 75-64 victory over UAlbany in the home team’s season opener at McGrath Arena on Monday, Nov. 17. The Blue Demons, who compete in the highly-talented Big East Conference, have won 20 of their last 21 home debuts.

DePaul (1-0) led 19-13 midway through the first half, but then ripped off 11 of the game’s next 13 points. Walker, a 6-foot junior, was fouled while making a layup following his steal for a three-point play to begin that run. Jabari Currie, a senior who tallied all 11 of his points in the period, added another conventional three-pointer when he hit a scoop shot and was fouled. Jeremiah Kelly, a freshman guard, then buried a long-range 3-point shot for a 30-15 advantage with 7:49 left in the period.

After UAlbany’s Brian Connelly canned an 18-footer to close the gap to 34-25, the Blue Demons ran off nine straight points. Tucker, a 6’5” sophomore, tallied the first seven markers in that outburst. He connected on a layup following Kelly’s steal, added another three-point play when he finished off Mac Koshwal’s outlet pass, and delivered a slam dunk for a 41-25 lead with 2:20 remaining before the break.

UAlbany (0-2) still trailed 55-38 in the second half, but then gave its Big East opponent some anxious moments the rest of the way. The Great Danes went on a 13-2 run to get back into the contest. Mike Johnson began that stretch when he beat the shot clock with a long-range jumper. Freshman Louis Barraza, who had 13 points as a reserve, canned a pair of 3-pointers, including one from the right wing that brought his club within 57-51 with 8:18 to play.

The Blue Demons, who were playing a regular-season game on campus for the first time since 1999, would eventually push the lead back to double figures. Walker, who scored 12 in the final stanza, buried a step-back 19-footer, before Koshwal made one of two foul shots for a 63-53 margin. UAlbany whittled the lead to six points two more times, including 65-59 when Johnson put back Connelly’s missed jumper at the 2:11 mark. Johnson, a junior college transfer, finished with 16 points, nine rebounds and seven assists.

However, DePaul would use free throws to keep its lead safe by making its next 7-of-8 from the line. Tucker, who connected on 7-of-16 from the floor, and Koshwal, a 6’10 center who also earned Big East all-rookie honors last year, each made two from the charity stripe. Walker, who canned 8-of-14 field goals, later sealed the verdict with a steal and a layup.

“Our guys played hard, but they don’t play smart right now,” said UAlbany coach Will Brown, whose program was facing consecutive Big East opponents for the first time since December 2004. “We gave up too many transition points in the first half, but our defense was better in the second half. We didn’t help ourselves again with the turnovers and gave them too many opportunities. We are playing fast and are too impatient.”

DePaul’s Kelly was the fourth player in double figures with 10 points. The Blue Demons, who have won all 11 meetings with America East Conference teams in their history, forced the visitors into 20 turnovers. UAlbany’s Will Harris, a Virginia transfer, had 11 points and seven rebounds. Scotty McRae added nine points, all in the opening half, off the bench.

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