ALBANY — He was right.
With the way they’ve defended this season, UAlbany men’s basketball head coach Will Brown said if the Great Danes could start consistently scoring 70 or more points, “the wins will take care of themselves.”
And the Great Danes exceeded that total for the first time this season Saturday night at SEFCU Arena against NJIT — and UAlbany secured an 83-75 victory, which was the 400th career win in the head coaching career of Brown.
“You should be excited,” Brown said he told his players after Saturday’s win. “You should be proud of your effort — but how good will this feel [Sunday] around 7 o’clock if we win again?”
Another win Sunday for the Great Danes when UAlbany and NJIT meet again at 5 p.m. will push UAlbany’s conference record to the .500 mark. UAlbany junior Antonio Rizzuto — named the Great Danes’ captain several days ago — said the team set the tone for a solid weekend with its work at practice.
“We just all held each other accountable this week, with all the little things we did,” Rizzuto said. “We really competed.”
Overall, it was an eventful night for the Great Danes that went well beyond the team exceeding 70 points for the first time.
Brown hit his career milestone, which includes 90 wins at Sullivan County Community College and 310 victories at UAlbany.
Seven UAlbany players, for the first time this season at SEFCU Arena, took a knee during the pre-game playing of the national anthem as a form of social protest.
And redshirt junior Cameron Healy (oblique) made his return to the Great Danes’ rotation, and the team’s top returning scorer from last season offered two points in 10 minutes after missing the squad’s last four games.
Leading the Great Danes were a quartet of double-digit scorers, as junior Jamel Horton scored 18 points, Rizzuto had 16, graduate student Chuck Champion had 15 and graduate student Jarvis Doles had a dozen.
“I thought today was a very good game for us,” said Doles, who also had a game-high nine rebounds. “I thought everybody was aggressive.”
UAlbany (2-3, 2-5) led NJIT (3-4, 4-5) by three at halftime. UAlbany’s 45-point first half was its highest-scoring half of the season. The Great Danes recorded 14 fast-break points in the half and made 18 of 33 shots.
NJIT, though, nearly kept up with the Great Danes in the opening 20 minutes. NJIT made 16 of 26 shots, including 7 of 11 from 3-point territory, in the opening 20 minutes.
The strong shooting for both teams continued after halftime, and the clubs found themselves tied at 58 with less than 13 minutes to go. From there, UAlbany put together an 8-0 run, and the Great Danes maintained at least a two-possession advantage for the game’s final 12 minutes, during which they led by as many as nine points.
Zach Cooks and Diego Willis each scored 22 points for NJIT, which is in its first season as an America East member.