No matter where the teams are in the standings, the University at Albany vs. Binghamton rivalry
Expect plenty of fireworks once again when the Great Danes visit the Events Center in Vestal tonight to take on the Bearcats in a battle for third place.
UAlbany and Binghamton are tied for third in the America East Conference standings at 8-6. Both teams are 13-14 overall.
Binghamton won the first game of the season series, 75-57, on Jan. 12 at SEFCU Arena, with senior guard Mike Gordon scoring a career-high 32 points.
Although the Great Danes own a 54-26 record in the all-time
series between the two former State University of New York Athletic Conference members, the Bearcats won nine of 10 games from Feb. 17, 1999, through March 5, 2005.
UAlbany finally figured a way to beat the Bearcats during its back-to-back conference championships the last two years, with three wins in four games before Binghamton came back to win earlier this season.
“I guess this is a rivalry, no matter how you look at it,” said
UAlbany head coach Will Brown. “It was a rivalry from the Division III days to the Division II days and on to this day. I guess they [the Bearcats] look at this game as a major rivalry. I look at our games with Vermont as more of a rivalry for us, but you can’t hide the fact that Albany, Binghamton and Stony Brook have been playing against each other for so many years. Many people, especially the alumni from each school, still think of this game as a huge rivalry.”
If the Great Danes hope to win tonight, they must hit their open shots, and defend both Gordon and 6-foot-8 sophomore forward Lazar Trifunovic.
“The first time we played them this season, we allowed Mike Gordon to get into a rhythm,” said Brown. “We played the percentages, because he hasn’t been known as a great scorer, but he got into a rhythm, and made shot after shot. We never adjusted, and we could have done a better job of keeping the ball out of his hands. If he has a repeat performance, we’re not
going to win this game.”
Trifunovic, who averages 14.3 points and 7.3 rebounds a game, is another concern for Brown because the native of Belgrade, Serbia, has an unorthodox shot, and can be dangerous both in the paint and on the perimeter.
“We did a pretty good job on him for the most part in the first game we played this year, but he did make some shots against us late in the game,” Brown said. “We’ve got to make Trifunovic work for
everything he gets.”
But no matter how well the Danes do on defense, they still must find a way to play better on offense.
“When we struggle offensively, it also hurts our defense,” Brown said. “If we miss our open shots and then make careless turnovers, it puts a lot of pressure on both our defense and our rebounding. Right now, we’re in the top three in the America East Conference in rebounding and in defense, but the problem is we’re in the bottom three in turnovers, assists and three-point shooting.”
Other key players for Binghamton, which has won three games in a row, are senior guard Richard Forbes, who averages 11.8 points per game, 6-3 junior guard Dwayne Jackson (8.6 ppg) and 6-6 Reggie Fuller (6.6 ppg, 5.5 rpg). Both Forbes and Jackson can be explosive. Forbes scored 27 points against Manhattan, while Jackson netted 26 against Maine last week.
Albany must bounce back from a frustrating non-conference loss at Canisius Saturday night. The Great Danes led the Golden Griffins, who were just 4-22 going into the game, by 18 points only to lose, 64-60.
“We’re OK, health-wise, but our psyche took a bit of a hit last weekend. We can’t have a hangover
after the Canisius game. We’ve got to beat Binghamton and Boston
University to reach our goal of finishing in second place in the league.”
Senior guard Brian Lillis paces the Danes in scoring (16.0 ppg), rebounding (6.3 rpg) and assists (3.6 apg). He’ll be joined in the starting lineup by 6-5 junior guard Jerel Hastings (5.1 ppg, 6-8 junior forward Brian Connelly (10.2 ppg, 5.5 rpg), 6-8 senior forward Brent Wilson (9.7 ppg, 5.8 rpg) and 6-7 freshman center Al Turley (2.0).
Senior guard Jon Iati (8.6 ppg) is the first player off the bench.