Great Danes need to focus on defense

When an unexpected foul taste is left in your mouth, you can’t wait to clean your palate with a diff

When an unexpected foul taste is left in your mouth, you can’t wait to clean your palate with a different type of food.

Such is the case with the 3-6 University at Albany basketball team, which, following an 83-54 trouncing by crosstown rival Siena over the weekend, is anxious to get a victory under its belt against the 0-5 Pennsylvania Quakers tonight at 7 at The Palestra in Philadelphia.

That 29-point setback was the most lopsided in the series with Siena since the 1946-47 season. Although the Great Danes have lost eight of the nine games since the local rivalry was renewed in 2001, most of the games were compet­itive. Saturday’s thumping at the Times Union Center was not.

“I think we can’t afford to have any Siena hangover. We understand we did absolutely nothing to help ourselves Saturday night,” said UAlbany head coach Will Brown. “The more we think about it, the more trouble we’ll be in as we move forward. We’ve got to give Siena credit. They played well defensively, and shot the ball well from the perimeter. They did what they needed to be successful, and we didn’t. We need to rechannel and to execute.”

Brown believes the Great Danes’ biggest problem right now is a lack of defensive intensity.

“We’ve got to get more defensive-minded,” he said. “I didn’t think we could afford to fall behind them by double digits this time, because we haven’t proven that we can get stop after stop.”

Brown said the Great Danes lost some tough defenders a year ago, and this year’s group hasn’t embraced a defensive philosophy.

“We lost three guys from last year’s team in Jimmie Covington, Jerel Hastings and Brian Con­nelly. Hastings was our best defensive player, even though he only played 18 minutes a game, and Connelly was a backline guy who took charges for us. Right now, I think it’s more of a lack of focus than anything else. We need to embrace the fact that we need to defend and rebound to be successful.”

The Quakers, who are battling injuries in the non-conference season, lost their fifth straight game, 73-67, last Friday night to Navy. Penn has won 25 Ivy League championships and has made 23 NCAA tournament appearances, the last in 2006-07.

Led by third-year head coach Glenn Miller, Penn is meeting the Great Danes for the second time. UAlbany won the first meeting, 73-63, last season.

Sophomore guard Zach Rosen is Penn’s top scorer at 14.2 points per game. He also averages 5.6 assists per game, and produced 18 points and seven assists in the loss to Navy. Rosen was named last year’s Philadelphia Big 5 Rookie of the Year.

Tyler Bernardini, the 2008 Ivy League Rookie of the Year and two-time honorable mention all-league selection, has missed the last three games with an injury, while 6-4 senior Darren Smith, who is averaging 10.8 points per game, has missed most of the last two seasons with a fractured kneecap.

Other key players for the Quakers are 6-8 junior forward Jack Eggleston (13.8 ppg, 4.8 rpg), who was fifth in the Ivy League in rebounding a year ago, and soph­omore Mike Howlett (6.6 ppg, 9.2 rpg), who played in only 10 games last year because of an injury.

“They do a great job spreading the floor and running their offense to a tee. They cut hard and screen hard, and wait for the defense to break down,” said Brown of the Quakers. “That’s the type of offense that will cause problems for us if we’re not focusing. They will make you pay if you try to cheat.”

Albany, playing the fourth game in an eight-game road swing, has already played five opponents that earned a NCAA tournament bids last year. The Great Danes are 15-8 all-time against Ivy League opponents.

Senior forward Will Harris is the Great Danes’ most productive player, and is averaging 16.1 points and 4.4 rebounds per game. He scored 17 points against Siena.

Tim Ambrose, who was held to 12 points on 6-for-18 shooting against Siena, is next at 15.3 points per game. Ambrose , who has scored at least 20 points 11 times in his career, is also the Great Danes’ top rebounder at 5.6 rpg.

The rest of the projected starting lineup includes 6-11 senior center Brett Gifford (1.0 ppg, 3.3 rpg), 6-0 senior guard Mike Johnson (8.4 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 3.71 assists) and 6-8 junior forward Fran Urli (3.4 ppg, 1.7 rpg), who transferred from Panola (Texas) College.

Categories: College Sports

Leave a Reply