ALBANY — On back-to-back days, the UAlbany men’s basketball team’s offense could seemingly do no wrong.
After mostly struggling to score through their first six games, the Great Danes scored 83 points each game against NJIT last weekend, and made 56.1% of their shots in securing a sweep.
“Obviously,” UAlbany graduate student Jarvis Doles said, “that’s not going to happen every game.”
By that, Doles — a 6-foot-9 forward — simply meant that the Great Danes know they’re not going to connect on such a high percentage of shots each game moving forward. Through Wednesday’s action, only 19 teams across the country are making 50% or better of their field-goal attempts, and the mark of the best-shooting team — undefeated Gonzaga, which is ranked No. 1 in the country — is 55.3%, which comes up shy of the percentage of shots the Great Danes made last weekend.
The Great Danes were shooting 42% from the field and averaging 63.7 points per game heading into their weekend series with NJIT. But, as the Great Danes move forward, starting with games this weekend at New Hampshire, they’re confident they can look more like the team from this past weekend than from their first six games.
“I think if we continue to share the ball, and take the right shots, and be unselfish and play together, then I think that we can continue to have successful nights on offense,” Doles said Wednesday during a teleconference with reporters.
Head coach Will Brown sees it that way, too. After a 2019-20 season that saw the Great Danes receive little offense from their bigs on a team that only had one player — Ahmad Clark, who was a senior — able to consistently create offense off the dribble, Brown set out to change that during the offseason.
A major part of that was bringing in five transfers.
Each of those veteran newcomers is averaging double-digit minutes, and four of them — Doles, juniors Jamel Horton and CJ Kelly, and graduate student Kellon Taylor — are averaging more than eight points per game.
“We’re fortunate that the transfers that we’ve brought in are all contributing, and contributing a lot,” said Brown, whose program also saw graduate student Chuck Champion — another transfer, who missed nearly all of last season because of an injury — play 20-plus minutes this past weekend for the first time.
This weekend’s opponent, New Hampshire, plays at one of the slowest tempos in the conference — and Brown said the Great Danes know that head coach Bill Herrion’s Wildcats “want to defend, rebound and make it ugly.”
Horton said UAlbany is confident its improved offense wasn’t a one-weekend fluke. The team’s ball movement was better last weekend, and that was a key factor in producing so many quality shots.
“But we also have to understand that we can’t control if shots fall or not. No matter how many good shots we take, how much we move the ball, shots may not fall — and we have to be able to win games when shots are not falling,” Horton said. “So while we want to be aggressive, and knock down shots and be that balanced-attack team, we have to understand it’s not going to be like that every game and we have to be able to win when it’s not like that. It’s easy to win when you make shots — or, easier, I should say.”