ALBANY — A dismal offensive showing Saturday at its home SEFCU Arena clinched that the UAlbany men’s basketball team will open up the America East Conference playoffs on the road.
“Offense hasn’t been an issue for us in league play,” UAlbany head coach Will Brown said in a post-game teleconference after his team’s 59-43 defeat. “I’m hoping that this was just a bad outing.”
UAlbany (5-6 America East, 5-8 overall) had averaged 77.5 points per game in its six games prior to Stony Brook (7-8, 9-12) shutting down the Great Danes’ attack. Before scoring a season-low 43 points and shooting a season-worst 25.9% from the field in Saturday’s matchup, UAlbany hadn’t scored fewer than 60 points or made worse than 32.3% of its shots in a game this season.
“We heavy-helped and stayed tight in the lane — and they didn’t make a shot, so that worked,” said Stony Brook head coach Geno Ford, whose team ended UAlbany’s season last year on Long Island in the conference playoffs.
“We got frustrated,” Brown said. “They really closed off driving lanes [and] dared us to shoot the ball from the perimeter.”
UAlbany and Stony Brook will play again at 2 p.m. Sunday at SEFCU Arena in the regular-season finale for both teams. The winner of that game will be the No. 5 seed for the America East playoffs, while the loser of the contest will either be the No. 7 or 8 seed.
Ford said his team is “going to try to win” Sunday, but also that he expects to “reward some guys with some playing time who have gotten COVID tested three times a week, who have sacrificed and stayed in a dorm by themselves for the whole year.”
Ford continued: “So I’m going to play some guys some minutes that haven’t gotten a lot of minutes as a reward, but I’m expecting to see the same chemistry and the same defense, or that experiment’s not going to last.”
Brown said he plans to approach his team’s final regular-season game with a sense of urgency, as the Great Danes want to bring some “momentum” into the conference tournament. Most important, though, is likely for UAlbany’s top players to play their regular minutes in an attempt to get them back in a rhythm.
UAlbany junior Antonio Rizzuto struggled in shooting 3 of 16 on Saturday, but played after a week that saw him undergo a knee “procedure” and not practice much. Meanwhile, starters Jarvis Doles and CJ Kelly returned to UAlbany’s lineup for Saturday’s game after missing the Great Danes’ previous series against UMass Lowell because of COVID-19 protocols.
“I played both of them too many minutes, but I think if we’re going to make any type of run [in the playoffs], I needed to play those guys,” said Brown, who allocated 28 minutes to Doles and 27 to Kelly.
Rizzuto played 34 minutes, while graduate student Kellon Taylor — who was limited at practice this past week because of a hamstring injury — played a team-high 38 minutes. Only Taylor, with 13 points, registered a double-digit scoring game for UAlbany, which received no points from Kelly after he scored the team’s first eight points and zero points for the whole game from starting guard Jamel Horton.
“I’d be shocked,” Brown said Saturday, “if we don’t play a lot better tomorrow.”
UAlbany only trailed 27-21 at halftime, then scored the second half’s first six points. Stony Brook, though, answered with a 16-0 run that turned a competitive game into a non-competitive one for its final dozen or so minutes. After the Seawolves moved ahead 43-27, UAlbany never was closer than 10 points the rest of the way.
“I think, mentally, we were just out of it a little bit, and, [Sunday], we’ve just got to come back and be better,” Taylor said.
Juan Felix Rodriguez, a junior, led Stony Brook with 14 points. He was one of three Seawolves to register at least a dozen points.