A major change in the starting lineup continues to pay big dividends for the University at Albany men’s basketball team.
Great Danes head coach Will Brown recently moved 6-foot-8 senior forward Brent Wilson, one of the program’s all-time leading three-point shooters, and 6-7 junior center Jimmie Covington out of the starting lineup in favor of 6-0 freshman guard Tim Ambrose and 6-7 freshman center Al Turley. Albany has won a pair of games since the switch, and Brown is hoping for more of the same when the Great Danes host Hartford in an America East Conference game today at 2 at SEFCU Arena.
“This lineup will stay the same until we find out that it’s not working anymore,” said Brown. “The reason we made the change was not motivational in nature. We needed to start our games with more energy out of the gate so we could get off to better starts. I think we’ve done that in our last few games.”
Ambrose and Turley give the Great Danes plenty of youthful enthusiasm and high-energy play. Although they make their share of mistakes, Brown can live with them if his team is going all-out to win.
“Tim Ambrose has always started every game before in high school, and he’s comfortable that way,” Brown said. “The one thing about Tim is that he is, right or wrong, always aggressive. Turley is also a very excitable guy who is a big, physical player. We need to get our energy from our youth. This has allowed us to bring some more veterans off the bench, and overall, it has helped us.
“Tim needs to stay focused, but he has definitely become a more consistent player for us. He is an exceptional athlete. He’s so strong and athletic that he’s always making something happen out there. Turley, in his own way, is also a high-energy guy for us.”
Brown was asked how Wilson, a tri-captain and one of the team’s leading scorers, dealt with the move.
“It was tough, but he didn’t have much of a choice,” said the Danes coach. “I had to make the decision based on what the team needed to be successful. Like I said before, I didn’t make this move to motivate Brent. I did this to make our team better. In the last game against New Hampshire, Brent came off the bench and not only scored but also rebounded and played defense. That’s what we need from him. He needs to be more versatile when he’s not making shots.”
Joining Ambrose (7.6 ppg), who scored 14 points against UNH, in the starting lineup will be Turley (1.7 ppg), 6-5 junior Jerel Hastings (5.5 ppg), 6-8 junior forward Brian Connelly (10.4 ppg, 5.5 rpg) and 6-5 senior guard Brian Lillis, who continues to lead the team in both scoring (16.3 ppg) and rebounding (6.3 rpg.
Wilson (9.5 pg, 5.5 rpg), senior guard Jon Iati (8.0 ppg), freshman guard Josh Martin (5.9 ppg) and Covington (2.2 ppg) are the top players off the bench for the 11-11 Great Danes.
Hartford, tied for third place with Albany at 6-4 in the conference standings, fell to the Great Danes, 73-63, in their first meeting. In that game, Albany built several big leads, but the Hawks made it close by pressing the Danes in the last 10 minutes.
“I’m sure they’ll press us again. We will have to defend them the way we did against New Hampshire. They like to spread you out and shoot the three. They average making nine threes a game. We need to communicate on defense to defend their three-pointers, and on offense, we’ll need to knock down some shots against their zone,” said Brown.
Hartford (12-13) is paced by sophomore guard Joe Zeglinski (15.4 ppg, 67 three-pointers), 6-6, 250-pound forward Warren McLendon (12.7 ppg, 5.0 rpg and Jaret Von Rosenberg (9.6 ppg).
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