ALBANY — Before and during the UAlbany men’s basketball team’s 1-4 start, head coach Will Brown and multiple players have said it.
The Great Danes “have the pieces” to put together a winning ball club.
Ahead of Saturday’s 6 p.m. non-conference game at Saint Joseph’s, though, the Great Danes are still figuring out how to put them together.
And, truthfully, they cannot fully do that until they get back redshirt juniors Cameron Healy (oblique) and Adam Lulka (nose/head), a pair of starters that Brown said will again be missing from the team’s lineup when it takes on a 0-8 Hawks program that has played one of the nation’s toughest schedules. Without those two players, UAlbany did manage to split its two-game series last weekend with Vermont.
That weekend’s games, though, provided a strong example of what’s ailed the Great Danes this season besides their lack of full personnel and limited preseason activity.
UAlbany played poorly in last Saturday’s first half, then played exceptionally well in erasing Vermont’s 16-point halftime lead on the way to victory. Then, Sunday, UAlbany played well in the first half and for most of the second, but a dismal stretch after that day’s halftime was too much for the Great Danes to overcome.
“I think, actually, our biggest thing is we can’t just have energy and passion and everything when things are going well,” said UAlbany graduate student Chuck Champion, whose team has only trailed at halftime this season in the game it ended up winning. “I think we need to stay somewhat even with the highs and the lows, and continue to have that same intensity, that same level of energy, through the entire game. I think that will make the difference.”
Jarvis Doles, another UAlbany graduate student, sees something similar. While Champion said the Great Danes always need to “have energy and passion,” Doles added the Great Danes are at their best when they have “that grit to us.”
“If we can do that [consistently], I think we can be a really good team,” Doles said.
UAlbany’s trip to Philadelphia to play an Atlantic 10 Conference program represents a chance for the Great Danes to show if they’ve improved in the last week. Saint Joseph’s — whose record includes losses against this week’s Nos. 3, 6 and 9 teams in the media poll — has impressive size and will test the Great Danes’ defense with its approach that’s heavy on launching 3-pointers. All seven Saint Joseph’s players averaging at least 20 minutes per game are 6-foot-5 or taller, and the Hawks attempt 31.9 3s per game.
“This team is really going to spread us out and try to have us overhelp,” Brown said. “We have to be very disciplined.”
But Brown sees his team, which is more athletic this season than it’s been in quite some time, as able to get quality looks against the Saint Joseph’s defense.
“We need to be super-aggressive because I think we can attack the paint, turn the corner and get some very good looks,” Brown said.
After playing Saint Joseph’s, UAlbany is scheduled to return to America East Conference play when it hosts NJIT on Jan. 16-17.