In the big picture, University at Albany head coach Will Brown knows his team still isn’t quite where he wants it to be.
But when it comes to the smaller picture, he has to admit that his Great Danes are pretty darn good.
Demonstrating a balanced offense that most mid-majors would die for and clamping down defensively in the second half, UAlbany pulled away from the UMBC 73-59 in the America East Conference opener for both teams Wednesday night at SEFCU Arena.
Five Great Danes scored in double figures, topped by Ray Sanders with 16 points. Evan Singletary added 14 points, six rebounds, six assists and three steals. Also scoring in double figures were Mike Rowley (12 points, eight rebounds), Joe Cremo (12 points) and Greig Stire (10 points).
Although UMBC is only 0-1 and 4-12, the Retrievers have been much more dangerous since sophomore Jairus Lyles joined the team. A transfer from VCU, Lyles was averaging 26 points over his last four games after sitting out the fall semester because of NCAA transfer rules. He scored 15 points in the first half, but the Great Danes held him to just two in the final 20 minutes.
“Once conference season rolls around, it’s a new season,” Brown said. “Ever since Lyles became eligible, they’ve been averaging well over 80 points per game. We held them to 59. In the second half, I was very pleased with our defense. Ray Sanders was excellent defensively on Lyles, and Joe Cremo guarded him when Ray was out of the game. But our supporting cast also helped defensively.”
STAR OF THE GAME
UAlbany senior Evan Singletary had 14 points, six rebounds, six assists and three steals.
“It felt good to win this game,” Sanders said. “We got out in transition early, and that led to a lot of easy baskets. We didn’t do anything differently on [Lyles] in the second half, but I think we played better collectively as a unit.”
Rowley’s all-around effort, from his 6-of-7 shooting to game-high rebounding, was eye-opening.
“Everyone was working to get off good shots. We were well balanced, and that made it easy for me,” Rowley said.
UAlbany allowed the Retrievers to shoot 54.2 percent from the floor in the first half, but the Danes’ defense tightened up considerably in the second half, allowing UMBC to shoot just 34.6 percent. The Danes also held a 36-21 rebounding edge and shot 16-for-23 from the line. UMBC was only 9-for-12.
“I thought it was a very physical game,” UMBC head coach Aki Thomas said. “They [the Great Danes] like to play physical. They rebound, and they get to the free-throw line often. I thought we made too many turnovers in the second half. You’ve got to give Albany credit. They made plays when they needed to in order to keep us at a safe distance.”
The Great Danes are now
7-0 at SEFCU Arena, and they’ve won five in a row since losing to Siena in the Albany Cup.
“It was nice to get one [league win] under our belt,” Brown said “They [the Retrievers] have two of the most dynamic players in the league. I wasn’t comfortable coming into this game. I wasn’t sure if we were going to get enough stops. Watching Lyles on film, he was very good. When I asked the New Jersey Tech coach about him, he said Lyles was special and spectacular. We made Lyles play in a crowd in the second half.”
Brown added that he is still hoping for plenty of improvement from his team as it heads into the long league schedule.
“We need more consistency,” he said. “Defense and rebound travels no matter where we play. My expectations for this group are high.”
NOTE: Lake George High School product Joel Wincowski, the all-time leading scorer in Section II history, was scoreless and took only one shot in 14 minutes.
Darley 3-7 0-0 8, Sherburne 3-8 0-0 8, Schwietz 4-7 0-1 8, Elliott 4-11 1-1 11, Lyles 6-12 5-6 17, Wincowski 0-1 0-0 0, Grant 2-4 3-4 7, Gerrity 0-0 0-0 0, Stenhede 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 22-50 9-12 59.
Rowley 6-7 0-0 12, Stire 4-4 2-3 10, Singletary 4-11 4-6 14, Sanders 6-11 2-2 16, Hooley 4-12 1-3 9, Cremo 2-4 7-8 12, Peters 0-1 0-1 0, Ennema 0-1 0-0 0. Totals: 26-51 16-23 73.
Halftime: UAlbany 36-34 3-point goals: UMBC 6-14 (Darley 2-2, Sherburne 2-6, Elliott 2-4, Lyles 0-2); UAlbany 5-21 (Singletary 2-7, Sanders 2-5, Hooley 0-5, Cremo 1-3, Ennema 0-1). Rebounds: UMBC 21 (Sherburne 6, Schwietz 6); UAlbany 36 (Rowley 8). Assists: UMBC 10 (Darley 4, Lyles 4); UAlbany 11 (Singletary 6). Personal fouls: UMBC 19, UAlbany 13. Officials: John Hughes, Greg Durrah, Greg Quirolo. A: 3,415.