Great Danes’ fans ready to Growl

Even though the University at Albany men’s basketball team is not enjoying the success it did during
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Even though the University at Albany men’s basketball team is not enjoying the success it did during back-to-back America East Conference championships, the Great Danes’ winter homecoming is still a hot ticket.

As of Monday afternoon, there were only 200 tickets remaining for the annual Big Purple Growl Saturday at SEFCU Arena. The Ferocious Feast, which expanded its menu this season, is already sold out.

The UAlbany women take on Stony Brook in the first game of the double-header at 4:30 p.m., followed by the Albany men’s team against Binghamton at 7.

Albany officials are expecting this to be the first sellout of the season.

“This is still a big deal here,” said UAlbany associate athletic director Charlie Voelker. “I think it’s still so successful because of the homecoming aspect to it. People look at it and say if they’re coming back to campus for one game, that’s the one they will come back for.

“Plus, we don’t have many double-headers anymore. I think there are a lot of people who have played for the men’s or women’s teams over the years, and they used to hang out together. This is a chance for them to come back and see each other.”

UAlbany keeps 1,000 tickets for students, who will be allowed to pick them up at about 3 p.m. The rest of the 3,538 tickets go to the general public.

“Even the type of tickets we sell has changed,” said Voelker. “We used to have 3,000 student tickets and 1,500 for the general public, but now it’s reversed.”

Voelker said scheduling hasn’t been kind to the Great Danes, in terms of drawing big crowds this season.

“We’ve been fortunate, as far as having weekend games, but we’ve had some tough dates. For example, we always looked to the Vermont game as a traditional sellout. This year, that game came when the

students were away. We had 800 to 900 students at the Maine game, and the crowd was much better. The students really add something when they are in attendance.”

According to assistant athletic director for marketing Rob Tot­aro, there will be many special events scheduled for the Big Purple Growl.

“We’ve already sold out the 650 tickets available for the Ferocious Feast, which includes an expanded menu of barbecue pulled pork, soy whiskey chicken and maraconi and cheese,” he said. “That’s really grown over the last couple of years. There is usually a big rush between games to eat the food. The Feast is open from 5 to 7 p.m.

“We also have a Kids Zone and a Puppy Pound for the kids, and the Earth Tones will be there to sing,” said Totaro.

“Probably the biggest thing we have going is the SEFCU Money Machine. It’s an inflatable machine run by two fans. One blows it up, and the other blows the money around. There are no rules. Fans can do whatever they can do to grab as much money as they can.

“For the Big Purple Growl, we’re going to have matching funds for the Money Machine. Two other people, one a student, will win

exactly what the person in the

machine is able to grab.”

About 1,500 T-shirts will be given out, and there will also be a student housing lottery, as well as several giveaways.

“It’s a lot of fun. We always have a great atmosphere at the SEFCU for the Big Purple Growl,” said Totaro. “It’s grown into something special. This is the third year in a row that we’re expecting a sellout.”

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The Great Danes (4-3 America East Conference, 9-10 overall), dropped their second consecutive home game with an 81-70 setback to Maine on Saturday. It was the first time UAlbany lost back-to-back home games since Jan­­uary 2005. …

Maine shot 64.7 percent from the floor in that game, the best by a UAlbany opponent since the Great Danes upgraded to Division I in 1999-2000. Syracuse shot 63.4 percent against Albany on Dec. 28, 2002. …

Senior swingman Brian Lillis, who scored 19 points, grabbed six rebounds, handed out five assists and made four steals against Maine, saw his double-double streak end at three games, the longest by a UAlbany player in the Division I era. Lillis leads the America East Conference in scoring (21.1 ppg) against conference opponents. …

Senior Brent Wilson moved into 22nd place on the career scoring list with 1,074 points. He also recently became the fourth UAlbany player at the Division I level to grab at least 500 career rebounds (535). …

Junior Jimmie Covington tied a career high with seven rebounds against Maine. …

Freshman Tim Ambrose had his best outing since late December with 16 points against the Black Bears.

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