ALBANY — Again, the UAlbany men’s basketball team utilized a dozen players Sunday, a sign of the program using its opening weekend of games to serve as a “feeling-out process” for a club featuring eight new players from last season.
And, again, a chance to knock off UMBC evaporated in the final minutes at SEFCU Arena.
On the heels of Saturday’s 65-64 defeat that saw UAlbany misfire on two final-minute shot attempts to take the lead, the Great Danes fell 65-60 Sunday as UMBC swept the America East Conference series. UMBC used a run late in the second half to take control before holding on for a five-point win, as the Great Danes lost for the second day in a row after leading at halftime.
“I like the pieces that they have. I like the [UAlbany] players — they’ve got a good spirit about them,” UMBC head coach Ryan Odom said. “They’re really competitive. It took everything for us to just have a chance at the end to win.”
“It’s huge for us,” UMBC senior Brandon Horvath, who had a game-high 27 points plus nine rebounds, said of sweeping the Great Danes. “Albany’s a tough team, especially at home. To get both games, that was our goal . . . but we can’t be satisfied.”
UAlbany graduate student Kellon Taylor said he wasn’t looking to make excuses for the Great Danes, but “that it’s difficult to come out and play a team like [UMBC]” that had already played five games before it visited SEFCU Arena and didn’t deal with the same stop-and-start preseason as UAlbany. While UMBC left SEFCU Arena with its sixth consecutive win, Taylor left it Sunday noting that his team still needs to “learn how to win games” after letting one slip away.
“I think that just comes with maturity and team chemistry,” Taylor said, “and that’s something we have to work on in practice.”
UAlbany (0-2, 0-2) led UMBC (2-0, 6-1) by eight points after a free throw from redshirt senior Jojo Anderson with 7:57 to go, but UMBC scored 16 of the next 18 points. The Great Danes trimmed UMBC’s lead to a one-possession advantage in the final minute, but never had possession with a chance to tie or take the lead in that minute.
UAlbany head coach Will Brown said his team’s defense “was good enough to win both games.” It’s offense, though, wasn’t at that level in either game. No UAlbany player scored more than 11 points Sunday, and expected top scorer Cameron Healy only managed three points on 1 of 9 shooting in a game that saw the Great Danes make 20 of 62 shots.
“We got to see what arguably the best team in our league looks like, and we had the opportunities [to win] and we didn’t take advantage of them,” Brown said. “So we have a lot of work to do.”
UAlbany plays Tuesday in a non-conference game against Niagara, and it’s unclear what Healy’s status is for that game. Brown said his star redshirt junior was dealing with an injury against UMBC that UAlbany is “hoping [is] a spasm, but it could be worse than that,” and that the injury — which Brown said caused pain in Healy’s ribcage — forced Healy from the lineup for Sunday’s final three minutes.
With Healy struggling, junior Antonio Rizzuto and Taylor each scored 11 points to lead UAlbany, while junior Jamel Horton added 10. Horton and Rizzuto each came off UAlbany’s bench, which matched the team’s starting lineup with 30 points.
“The biggest thing I got out of this weekend,” Brown said, “is I think we have a lot of moving pieces.”
Brown said the Great Danes need to use Monday to make sure Tuesday doesn’t see their record drop to 0-3 overall.
“No moral victories,” Brown said. “We’ve just got to keep working. We’ve got to get better. And, then, I’ve got to figure out a rotation.”
Owens 1-3 1-2 4, Eytle-Rock 2-8 1-2 5, Horvath 10-14 4-4 27, Rogers 2-7 2-4 8, Spasojevic 1-2 0-2 2, Kennedy 2-6 2-3 6, Akin 1-4 8-12 10, Boonyasith 1-3 0-0 3. Totals: 20-47 18-29 65.
Healy 1-9 0-0 3, Taylor 5-9 1-2 11, Lulka 2-3 3-4 7, Kelly 0-5 0-0 0, Anderson 2-8 4-6 9, Rizzuto 3-10 3-3 11, Hank 0-0 0-0 0, Hutcheson 1-2 0-0 2, Shafer 0-1 0-0 0, Champion 0-4 0-0 0, Doles 3-4 0-0 7, Horton 3-7 3-4 10. Totals: 20-62 14-19 60.
Halftime score: UAlbany 34, UMBC 29. Three-point shooting: UMBC 7-18 (Owens 1-3, Eytle-Rock 0-1, Horvath 3-4, Rogers 2-5, Kennedy 0-2, Boonyasith 1-3), UAlbany 6-22 (Healy 1-5, Kelly 0-2, Anderson 1-2, Rizzuto 2-7, Hutcheson 0-1, Champion 0-2, Doles 1-2, Horton 1-1). Rebounds: UMBC 36 (Akin 12), UAlbany 29 (Lulka 7). Assists: UMBC 10 (Horvath 4), UAlbany 9 (Healy 4). Turnovers: UMBC 17, UAlbany 11. Total fouls: UMBC 18, UAlbany 23. Technical fouls: None. Fouled out: None. Attendance: 0.