Big Purple Growl should fire up Danes

The University at Albany can expect plenty of vocal support when it hosts Stony Brook during the ann
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If the University at Albany basketball team had any excuses for a lack of defensive intensity before, it won’t have one tonight.

When the Great Danes host old SUNYAC rival Stony Brook in the annual Big Purple Growl at 7 at SEFCU Arena, they will be playing in front of a sell-out crowd, loaded with Albany alumni celebrating their winter homecoming.

“I was hoping we were beyond the point when we had to rely on our big home crowd to give us energy, but I guess we’re like an old car with a battery that is a little dead. Maybe we need a little jump-start, and hopefully, the nearly 5,000 people on hand will provide all the energy we need,” said Albany head coach Will Brown.

The Great Danes, 4-4 in the America East Conference and

9-11 overall, played solidly against high-scoring University of Maryland Baltimore County Wednesday night, but they could not get over the hump and lost, 69-65.

“We hung in there. It could have gotten ugly,” said Brown. “At least we showed some heart.”

Once again, two of Albany’s major

weaknesses showed up against the Retrievers. The Danes have not been consistent on defense, and they have often struggled to find enough scorers outside of Brian Lillis.

“We’re not getting everyone

going on the same night. That’s why we need to be so much better on defense,” said Brown. “Every time we struggle offensively, we also struggle defensively. I keep telling our guys that we’re not the kind of team that can beat somebody without playing good defense. We just don’t have enough offense every night to do that.”

Against UMBC, Lillis, the team’s leading scorer, struggled until a late second-half run, and he finished with 19 points. Fifth-year senior Jon Iati came off the bench to score 14 points, and Brian Connelly added 10 points. The rest of the Danes had a tough night.

At least the Danes should have some confidence against Stony Brook, a team Albany defeated,

80-64, on Jan. 9 at Stony Brook Arena.

“We were up by 20 at the half at that game, and we never let them get closer than 11,” Brown said.

The Seawolves (1-7, 4-16) are riding a six-game losing streak. Ricky Lucas, a 6-foot-4 senior, paces the team in scoring at 14.2 points per game, and he has reached double figures 13 times. Senior guard Mitchell Beauford produces 10.1 points and 2.3 assists per game. He reached the 1,000-point mark for his career eaerlier this season.

Michael Tyree adds 7.8 ppg off the bench, while Nick Carter, son of former St. John’s standout and NBA player Reggie Carter, chips in at 6.5 ppg. Rounding out the key players for the Seawolves is 6-6 junior

Demetrius Young, who transferred from Yuba College, where he was the Big Valley Conference MVP. Young averages 7.4 points and 7.9 rebounds.

“We’ve got to attack their zone defense the way we did the first time we played them,” said Brown. “They like to try to get you out of your rhythm, offensively. They also are very strong on the offensive boards. We’ve got to block out.

“Probably the main thing with Stony Brook is to be careful with the basketball. They like to score off their defense, because they struggle so much offensively.”

Albany and Stony Brook are playing for the 47th time. Albany has won 32 of the previous 46 matchups, but the Danes are 10-7 since both former Division III programs elevated to the Division I level.

Lillis (16.4 ppg) and Connelly (10.4 pg) are the only double-figure scorers for Albany. Senior forward Brent Wilson (9.6 ppg) and Iati (8.1 ppg) are other scoring threats.

Jimmie Covington, a 6-7,

245-pound junior, will start at center, and Jerel Hastings, a 6-5 junior transfer, will start opposite Lillis in the backcourt.

Josh Martin, a freshman point guard, Tim Ambrose, a redshirt freshman guard, 6-11 sophomore Brett Gifford and 6-7 freshman Al Turley round out the Danes’ bench.

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