Albany needed a win to clinch half of the regular season title. Hartford needed a win to boost morale.
On a special "Australia Night" celebrating the total of seven players on the court between the teams who call Australia their home, the crowd brought a little bit of Australia to Albany: Australian flags were flying in the stands, kangaroo crossing signs were raised in the student sections and the Australian national anthem played before the game.
Corban Wroe scored the first five points for the Hawks taking no time to in letting everyone know that the Hawks came to play and win. With the entire crowd of 4,123 fans dressed in purple, anyone would be intimidated, but Hartford knew they needed this win to bounce back from its recent string of losses.
While Wroe was the anchor that kept Hartford grounded, Mark Nwakamma returned after sitting out several games with a knee injury. He scored a team-high 17 points. Justin Graham has slowly been coming out of his shell throughout the season and with 15 points, going 3-for-5 from beyond the arc, it's easy to say he's more than comfortable on the floor.
When the teams went into the locker room at half time with the score tied at 25, I knew it was going to be a battle until the final buzzer. Albany's Ray Sanders was relatively quiet in the first half -- four points, half coming on free throws -- but he burst out in the second half determined not to let Hartford get too comfortable. He walked off the court with a game-high 19 points, seven rebounds and only one foul.
Not one to leave anyone out, Sam Rowley also ended the game in double digits despite being double-teamed the whole night. Hartford knew that if Albany wanted to score in the paint, Rowley was the one to do it.
"They did a good job at doubling Sam the entire night and I think that's a tremendous credit to Sam Rowley," said Alabany head coach Will Brown.
While Albany may have won the game, Hartford head coach John Gallagher was happy with the results of the game despite the loss.
"I love where we're at," Gallagher said. "I don't like it, I love it."