Shooting continues to baffle Great Danes

University at Albany has proven time after time that defense, not offense, is the key to winning bas

University at Albany has proven time after time that defense, not offense, is the key to winning basketball games.

The Great Danes continue to be mired in a shooting slump, but they keep on winning because of their defense, depth and rebounding.

Albany (7-4) attempts to stretch its winning streak to three games tonight when the Great Danes visit the Saint Francis (N.Y.) Terriers at the Pope Center/Peter Aquilone Court.

Although Albany has failed to shoot at least 40 percent from the floor in six of its last seven games, the Danes have matched their best 11-game record as a Division I program.

By beating Sacred Heart, 60-59, in Saturday’s snowstorm-delayed game in Fairfield, Conn., Albany secured its 10th one-point victory at the Division I level. The Great Danes had to rally from a nine-point deficit in that game and won it when Mike Johnson made a free throw with 9.5 seconds left.

Will the Danes ever come out of their prolonged shooting slump?

“I hope so,” said Albany head coach Will Brown. “We’re missing some easy shots. Our guys have to remain confident and aggressive. Hopefully, they will start to knock down some shots, but until they do, we’ve got to continue to play hard on defense and to control the glass. We missed a lot of shots from within 10 feet against Sacred Heart. We didn’t do much to help ourselves in that game. We’ve got to finish better and make some shots.”

Tim Ambrose and Will Harris, two of the Great Danes’ top three scorers, combined for only three points against Sacred Heart. Ambrose had an eight-game double-figure scoring streak snapped.

“If you told me before that game that those two would combine for three points, I’m not so sure I would have said that we even had a chance to win that game,” said Brown. “But we’ve got a deep bench. Tony Raffa and Billy Allen made some big plays in that game, and Mike Johnson sank that big free throw. Our guys are hungry. We’ve got 10 or 11 guys who want to play and contribute every night. That’s why until we start shooting better, we’ve got to find a way to hang in there. That’s also why defense and rebounding are so important. We can’t waste any possessions.”

Saint Francis is off to a 3-6 start after posting a 7-22 record a year ago.

The Terriers lead the Northeast Conference in three-point field goals made (9.3 per game) and blocked shots (5.7 per game).

Kayode Ayeni, a 6-foot-5 junior, paces the team in both scoring (14.8 ppg) and rebounding (9.4 ppg).

Stefan Perunicic, a 6-6 freshman from Serbia, adds 12.7 ppg and tops the conference in three-pointers at 3.2 per game.

Jamaal Womack (8.2 ppg, 3.2 assists) and Ricky Cadell (10.7 ppg, 3.1 assists) comprise the starting backcourt, while 6-7 Herman Wrice, who is second in the league in blocked shots (2.0 per game), mans the post.

“Saint Francis shoots the three from four of the five positions, and in two games this year, they hit 17 three-pointers,” said Brown. “They are quick and athletic. They like to shoot the ball in transition, and the higher the score, the better it is for them.

“We’ve got to force them to defend. We’ve got to pound the glass because they don’t rebound very well.”

Ambrose, a 6-0 sophomore guard, paces the Danes in both scoring (13.5 ppg) and rebounding (5.2 pg). Raffa, a freshman point guard who leads the team in three-pointers with 15, is next at 11.7 ppg, followed by Harris at 10.1 ppg. Senior forward Brian Connelly (8.0 ppg) and 6-11 junior center Brett Gifford round out the starting lineup.

This will be Albany’s last game before the holiday break. The Danes travel to Kansas Dec. 30.

Categories: College Sports


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