By Vince Gasparini | February 28, 2022
On Saturday, The University at Albany men’s basketball team – facing postseason elimination – beat the NJIT Highlanders 82-68 on Senior Night. The Great Danes were led by the lights out 3-point shooting of Sarju Patel and a rebounding clinic put on by freshman forward, Jonathan Beagle.
Forward Jonathan Beagle driving for a layup in the second half.
Photo Credit: Vince Gasparini
Seniors Gerald Drumgoole Jr., Trey Hutcheson, Da’Kquan Davis, and Patel were honored by the rest of the team and the coaching staff before the start of the game.
“You don't wanna lose on your senior night and I feel like we came up with that urgency, intensity and passion to take over the game,” Patel said, who scored a career high 25 points.
The first fifteen minutes of the game saw the bottom two teams in the America East Conference going back and forth. However, the Great Danes gained a 44-32 lead by halftime off some pull-up shooting and work in the paint by Aaron Reddish and Beagle, and two three-pointers by Patel in the last four minutes of the half. The Great Danes shot 47.2% in the first half, with a 35.7% mark from behind the arc.
Across the game, Patel shot 7-10, going 5-8 from three. He also shot 6-7 from the charity stripe.
“Sarju played terrific. I mean, when he's played really well, it's taken our team to another level,” Head Coach Dwayne Killings said. “He's confident and gives energy.”
Not only did the Great Danes pull through for the win, but they also tied their season-low in turnovers with nine. Coach Killings attests this to the team’s work in practice and their extra rest throughout the week.
“We didn't have a game on Wednesday, so I thought that rest really helped us mentally because I think when you have a fresh body, you have a fresh mind, and you have a sharp mind,” Killings said. “I thought that really helped us just collect ourselves a little bit.”
Needless to say, the Great Danes came prepared for NJIT. In the second half, they led by as much as 20 points. The Highlanders did attempt to climb back, and slimmed that lead to 10 points with 2:14 left in the game. However, a Patel three-pointer off of an assist Beagle with 1:46 left in the game essentially solidified the win for the Danes.
Impressive scoring and rebounding by Beagle, who posted 17 points and 13 rebounds, and noteworthy scoring nights from Drumgoole Jr. with 19 points, and Davis with 12 points helped propel the Great Danes through the second half of the game.
Despite keeping their playoff hopes alive, the work is not done yet for the Great Danes. In order to qualify for the America East postseason, they need the Highlanders to lose against New Hampshire on Tuesday night, and they also need to win their game on Tuesday night against the Vermont Catamounts, who are first place in the America East Conference.
“They [Vermont] will be ready. It's their senior night. So exactly the emotions we had, is what they're gonna have,” Patel said. “Our backs are against the wall so we have a lot of motivation too.”
The Great Danes are heading to Vermont Tuesday night for their regular season finale against the Catamounts.