Revenge is on the menu, but the University at Albany players probably won’t choose it as their entree tonight when the Great Danes host Canisius in a non-conference game at SEFCU Arena.
The Golden Griffins played the Great Danes for the first time ever last season in Buffalo in a game created out of the ESPN BracketBusters series. Albany led by as much as 18 points in the first half only to see Canisius rally for a 64-60 victory.
UAlbany head coach Will Brown remembers that game well, but he doesn’t think the players on this year’s roster care less what happened a year ago.
“It’s really not a revenge game, because we only have a few players left from that team,” said Brown. “I do remember that we had that big lead, and I took our three veterans, Brian Lillis, Brent Wilson and Jon Iati, off the floor. All of a sudden, we couldn’t buy a basket, and Canisius comes on strong. They eventually overtook us for the win. It wasn’t a good game for us, but this year’s team is quite different than a year ago.”
The Golden Griffins, who are in the middle of a five-game road swing, have five starters back from a year ago, plus 6-foot-9, 320-pound Hofstra transfer Chris Godley, who averages 13.6 point and 7.6 rebounds a game.
Another weapon up front is 6-7, 240-pound forward Greg Lyons, who produces 10.8 points and 7.3 rebounds per game.
One of UAlbany’s strengths this season has been solid work on the boards, but the Danes will be tested against the Golden Griffins.
Frank Turner is probably the best all-around player on the Canisius roster with averages of 13.3 points, 3.8 rebounds and 2.8 assists, while 6-4 Julius Coles chips in with 7.1 points per game.
“Gadley is a big guy, and he’s extremely tough on the boards,” said Brown. “But Turner is the key for them. As he goes, so do they. He is a very good player in transition, and I think their entire team is a lot more athletic than a year ago.”
Rebounding will be focus once again for Albany.
“We’ve done a great job on the boards, mostly because we rebound very well from all positions,” Brown said. “That’s part of our game plan. But what we really have to do is take better care of the basketball and to take better shots. We can’t be in such a hurry against them.
“Last year’s Canisius game and the Lehigh game Monday night were very similar. In both games, we let the other team rally back because we stopped making shots and couldn’t defend.”
The 5-4 Great Danes will be trying to snap a two-game losing streak. They lost to cross-town rival Siena by seven points last Saturday before dropping a game at Lehigh, 65-64, Monday night. Albany led by as many as 15 points in the second half against the Mountain Hawks.
Sophomore guard Tim Ambrose, who has reached double figures in seven straight games, is Albany’s leading scorer at 14.8 points per game, while freshman point guard Anthony Raffa (11.1 ppg) and junior forward Will Harris (10.6 ppg) are other key players offensively.
Joining them in the usual Albany starting lineup are 6-11 junior center Brett Gifford (1.7 ppg), who will have his hands full with the bulky Gadley and Lyons, and 6-8 senior forward Brian Connelly (8.2 ppg), who is the team’s top returning scorer.
Harris tops the Danes in rebounding (5.7 rpg). Albany outrebounds its opponents by an average of nearly eight a game.
Albany’s bench play has also been solid this year as 6-8 forward Scotty McRae (4.2 ppg), backup point guard Michael Johnson (3.7 ppg), 6-7 center Jimmie Covington (1.4 ppg), swingman Louis Barrera (4.1 ppg), red-shirt freshman Billy Allen (2.6 ppg) and Jerel Hastings (3.9 ppg) have each contributed so far.
“We haven’t been shooting straight so far, so I’d like to see us with a better shot selection,” said Brown, whose Danes are connecting on only 41.6 percent of their shots from the floor and 28.7 percent from beyond the arc.
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