ALBANY — There are reasons to be optimistic about where the 2020-21 season is headed for the UAlbany men’s basketball team.
But UAlbany head coach Will Brown said Wednesday during a teleconference that the Great Danes also need to recognize where they’re at after their opening batch of games.
“After five games, we potentially could be 5-0. We could be 4-1,” Brown said. “But we’re 1-4 right now.”
UAlbany’s 74-66 loss Sunday at Vermont was actually the first game this season during which the Great Danes didn’t lead at some point in the second half. That contest came a day after UAlbany snapped its nine-game losing streak to Vermont, a contest that saw the Great Danes — playing without starters Cameron Healy (oblique) and Adam Lulka (nose/head) — erase a 16-point halftime deficit on their way to victory.
“That night was the most unselfish we’ve played in terms of both ends of the floor, every possession,” UAlbany junior Jamel Horton said.
“We had that energy and that grit in the second half [of that game],” UAlbany graduate student Jarvis Doles said.
The Great Danes currently are not scheduled to play again until Jan. 16-17 against NJIT in America East Conference play, but Brown said Wednesday that it’s a “strong possibility” the program will add a non-conference game this weekend, which was supposed to see UAlbany play Stony Brook before the Seawolves needed to pause in-person team activities.
If UAlbany men’s basketball ends up playing this weekend, it doesn’t seem likely that Healy or Lulka will play. While Lulka did some on-court work Tuesday, it was all of the non-contact variety. Meanwhile, Healy’s activity this week had been limited to jogging and riding a stationary bicycle. Both players have missed multiple games.
“That’s where we’re at with those two,” Brown said. “Again, I’m optimistic that we will have them for NJIT, probably a little more optimistic about Adam than I am about Cameron at this point, but nothing would surprise me.”
Getting Healy and Lulka back into the mix is essential for the Great Danes as they look to grow into a winning team. Healy is one of the conference’s top scorers and Lulka was off to a strong start before needing to miss time. Both redshirt juniors from Australia are players that Brown wants to see play 30-plus minutes when UAlbany’s rotation starts to trim down — and UAlbany likely cannot fully take the next step in its development this season until it has both those players available.
“This group, collectively, has to learn how to win,” Brown said. “I think every team, every year, has to learn how to win because every year is a little bit different — but this is a year like no other.”
From conference play, which has seen UAlbany start 1-3, Doles said UAlbany should take confidence from the way it competed with the league’s projected top-two teams in UMBC and Vermont.
But the Great Danes should also understand they need to be better moving forward if they’re going to be a winning team.
“We’re good enough that we should be 3-1 and not 1-3 [in league play],” Doles said. “I think we should use that to motivate us and fuel us, to be better, and to make that change and just be the great team that we feel like we can be.”