UAlbany men’s basketball head coach Dwayne Killings said it would be a “tough ride home” from Philadelphia for his club, but he also saw positives in the team’s 67-64 loss to La Salle.
“I think we took another step,” Killings said.
After a season debut that saw the Great Danes produce a dismal second half in a 21-point loss to Towson, UAlbany (0-2) competed until the final buzzer against La Salle (1-1) at Tom Gola Arena. Down by as many as 16 points in the first half, UAlbany cut La Salle’s advantage to two possessions or fewer on five separate occasions in the final two minutes, but the Great Danes never had the ball with the chance to tie or go ahead during that stretch.
“It was a tough loss,” Killings said. “I thought we were right there. I thought our kids came out with a lot of fight. I thought we grew from our first game of the season. Coming to Philadelphia was a great opportunity for our program.”
The Great Danes’ program is filled with players and coaches with connections to the Philadelphia area, but that didn’t seem to help the team’s on-court comfort level. In dealing with La Salle’s zone pressure, UAlbany committed 26 turnovers, the program’s most since a game three years ago and only two off the program’s highest-ever mark, which came in a 2001 game against Ohio State. Among UAlbany’s turnovers were a pair of violations for not being able to move the ball past the half-court line within 10 seconds.
UAlbany guard Matt Cerruti credited La Salle’s pressure defense for making things difficult for the Great Danes, but he also thought UAlbany contributed to its own problems.
“We were not faking the pass to make a pass,” Cerruti said. “We were getting sloppy with the ball. Just a lot of things we can correct.”
Cerruti added: “A lot of the times, we tried to overcomplicate things and our coaching staff keeps preaching [to] just make the simple play.”
UAlbany trailed 36-23 after a rough first half. The Great Danes made 8 of 22 shots in the opening 20 minutes and committed 17 turnovers. Meanwhile, La Salle made 15 of 28 shots.
After halftime, UAlbany tightened the game relatively quickly, but the Great Danes were unable to ever get closer than five points until guard Jamel Horton made a 3-pointer with 1.6 seconds left that served as the game’s final points. La Salle was able to run out the clock following Horton’s 3, as UAlbany never got a chance to put up a potentially game-tying shot.
“We just couldn’t come up with the right plays down the stretch,” said Killings, whose team had two consecutive empty possessions when the Great Danes were only down 59-53 with less than two minutes left in regulation.
Christian Ray had a dozen points to lead a balanced La Salle offense that saw seven players score at least six points. La Salle nearly shot 50% for the game at 23 of 47 from the field, but the Explorers committed 23 turnovers and shot 4 of 18 from 3-point territory.
For UAlbany, De’Vondre Perry was one of four players to record double-digit scoring with a game-high 18 points. Cerruti and Horton each had 13 points, while Trey Hutcheson had 11 points.
After Towson out-rebounded UAlbany 45-28 on Tuesday, the Great Danes were competitive on the glass against La Salle. UAlbany was out-rebounded 30-25 on Saturday.
Killings had announced Thursday that Sam Shafer will miss the rest of the season following shoulder surgery. On Saturday, the team’s only other scholarship players not to play were Will Amica and Gerald Drumgoole. Killings said Amica is still day-to-day with a hip ailment and that Drumgoole — who played Tuesday — is “still recovering” from offseason knee surgery, and that both players were not full practice participants between Tuesday’s and Saturday’s games.
UAlbany next plays Wednesday against Harvard at SEFCU Arena. Harvard is 1-1 on the season after an overtime loss Saturday at Iona.