ALBANY — Before each game, the University at Albany men’s basketball coaching staff outlines four keys to the matchup for its players.
Against Manhattan, the Great Danes kept it simple Thursday at SEFCU Arena.
“For one, two, three and four,” UAlbany head coach Will Brown said, “we listed the same word: toughness.”
UAlbany showed plenty of that, both mentally and physically, in earning a hard-fought 77-67 win against Manhattan. UAlbany junior Ahmad Clark led the way with 23 points as the Great Danes snapped a three-game losing streak and extended Manhattan’s losing streak to six.
“Big win for us,” said Clark, who made 13 of 15 free throws. “We know we can win games.”
So far this season, UAlbany has struggled with its inexperienced roster to do that. After losing seven of eight games, though, the Great Danes made a switch and further embraced the youthfulness of their 2018-19 crew. Along with Clark, UAlbany started true freshman Antonio Rizzuto, plus redshirt freshmen Brent Hank, Cameron Healy and Adam Lulka. Rizzuto replaced senior Devonte Campbell in the starting lineup, but the senior did play 28 minutes off the bench and was a fixture in UAlbany’s crunch-time lineup.
“I look at that as a good thing,” Brown said of the program turning more to its freshmen. “I think we’ll be good this year, and I think the future’s really bright, but we have a lot of work to do and we need to embrace that.”
“We need to be focusing on what our Coach is preaching about being tough,” said Lulka, who recorded a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds.
UAlbany embraced hard work against Manhattan. The Great Danes made their first five shots, but spent most of the night finding ways to earn trips to the foul line against the pressuring zone defense of the Jaspers. In all, the Great Danes made 28 of 35 free throws on a night in which the final 15 points combined between both teams came from the foul line.
“They’re an aggressive team, especially on the defensive end,” Clark said. “So we knew they were going to trap, scrap and do a lot of things to speed us up.”
The fouls took a toll on Manhattan, which only shot 13 free throws. Junior big man Pauly Paulicap, Manhattan’s leading scorer on the season, only managed to play nine minutes before fouling out.
“I thought we never got into a routine. [Paulicap] never got to get into a rhythm tonight,” Manhattan head coach Steve Masiello said. “Obviously, he’s a big part of what we do. Couple whistles here and there just kind of built up, and we only get him on the court for nine minutes. So he couldn’t impact the game how we would like him to.”
UAlbany led 33-30 at halftime and maintained at least a two-possession lead for the final 4:07. The Great Danes never trailed in the contest. For UAlbany, Healy contributed 16 points and Rizzuto added 14. Manhattan sophomore Nehemiah Mack scored a team-high 21 points.
“I thought that if we matched or exceeded their toughness tonight, we’d win,” Brown said. “And I thought we did that.”
Senior Ray Miller missed Thursday’s game against Manhattan (2-9) with an ankle injury, while UAlbany (4-9) also played without sophomore Philip Flory, who is expected to debut Dec. 28 at Kent State after recovering from a foot injury. UAlbany will practice each day this weekend before taking a brief break until returning to practice next Wednesday to finish preparing for Kent State.
“They’re going to be ready for us,” Brown said.
Paulicap 2-3 0-0 4, Usilo 0-0 0-0 0, Mack 6-9 6-6 21, Capuano 3-5 0-0 8, Greene 3-10 0-0 7, Williams 6-12 0-5 12, Buchanan 0-1 0-0 0, Stewart 1-2 0-0 2, Hinckson 1-6 1-2 3, Reynolds 1-5 0-0 2, Edube 1-1 0-0 2, Diallo 3-4 0-0 6. Totals: 20-40 28-35 77.
Hank 0-0 1-2 1, Lulka 5-6 0-0 10, Rizzuto 3-8 5-6 14, Clark 4-9 13-15 23, Healy 4-9 4-4 16, de Sousa 1-1 1-2 3, Campbell 0-2 4-6 4, Fruscio 0-0 0-0 0, French 0-1 0-0 0, Lauderdale 3-4 0-0 6. Totals: 20-40 28-35 77.
Halftime score: UAlbany 33, Manhattan 30. Three-point shooting: Manhattan 6-18, UAlbany 9-20. Rebounds: Manhattan 24 (Usilo, Williams 4), UAlbany 33 (Lulka 10). Assists: Manhattan 18 (Stewart 5), UAlbany 15 (Clark 6). Turnovers: Manhattan 8, UAlbany 17. Total fouls: Manhattan 20, UAlbany 13. Fouled out: Paulicap, Buchanan. Attendance: 1,412.
Reach Michael Kelly at [email protected] or @ByMichaelKelly on Twitter.
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