ALBANY — In its opening game, the UAlbany men’s basketball played a solid first half before a dismal second.
Next game, the Great Danes struggled for the opening 20 minutes before nearly completing a comeback win.
So . . .
“Can we put [it] together for a full 40 minutes?” Great Danes head coach Dwayne Killings said at Tuesday’s practice. “I think that’s the challenge for us.”
UAlbany is 0-2 on the young season, and the Great Danes’ next chance to earn the first win of Killings’ head-coaching career comes at 7 p.m. Wednesday at SEFCU Arena when they play host to Harvard, which has started 1-1. Harvard, picked as the preseason runner-up in the Ivy League, defeated Division II Morehouse in its opening game, then lost in overtime at Iona on Saturday.
Meanwhile, UAlbany has lost to Towson and La Salle. The non-conference season, though, is about taking as many steps forward as possible, and UAlbany showed Saturday in Philadelphia it had taken some since opening night.
“Right now,” UAlbany’s Trey Hutcheson said, “the mood’s just kind of consumed with that: getting better every day, just trying to piece it together . . . so that we can get on a little win streak here.”
UAlbany is coming off its best half of the season. The Great Danes were outscored in the first three halves of play, then outdid La Salle 41-31 in the second half of their 67-64 loss. It’s a small victory, but it’s something for UAlbany to build off as it continues to find its way with a roster that includes nine new players still figuring out how they mesh together.
“It’s there,” Killings said, “but we’ve got to connect all the dots.”
Killings said Tuesday that Gerald Drumgoole Jr. will miss, at least, the rest of the non-conference season for the Great Danes.
Killings said Drumgoole, who didn’t play in Saturday’s loss to La Salle, will have surgery to repair a “minor meniscus tear” at some point before the Thanksgiving holiday.
“We need him to get healthy,” Killings said of the transfer from Pittsburgh.
UAlbany is already without Sam Shafer (shoulder) for the rest of the season, while the status of Will Amica (hip) remains uncertain.
“Right now, we’re trying to evaluate what he can give us,” Killings said.
Amica has not played yet this season, and has practiced sporadically in the last few weeks. Killings said he was “not sure” if Amica, who only played in one game last season due to injury issues, will make his season debut against Harvard.
SCOUTING THE GREAT DANES
Harvard assistant coach Brian Eskildsen — who handled lead responsibilities for head coach Tommy Amaker’s program in putting together the Crimson’s scouting report on the Great Danes — said Tuesday in a phone interview with The Daily Gazette the experience and versatility of UAlbany’s roster impressed him.
“You look down their lineup and they’ve got a lot of guys with a lot of game experience,” Eskildsen said. “That jumps out first when you watch them. They look like an older, veteran, physical team.”
While UAlbany’s roster includes nine new players from a season ago, Killings and his coaching staff did make it a priority to stock the Great Danes’ roster with experienced players. While the team includes four freshmen, seven of the team’s players are at least in their fourth season of college basketball.
Like every other team in the Ivy League, Harvard did not play last season due to restrictions related to the novel coronavirus pandemic. On Harvard’s 15-man roster, nearly half — seven — of the team’s players hadn’t played in a college game before last week.
“So without playing last year, we’ve got a lot of inexperienced players playing out there,” Eskildsen said. “We’ve got some guys getting their first taste of college basketball.”
To this point in the season, Harvard has relied heavily on a pair of its older players. Senior Noah Kirkwood is averaging 23 points and eight rebounds, and junior Chris Ledlum is averaging 24 points and nine rebounds per game through Harvard’s 1-1 start.
UAlbany freshman Aaron Reddish said his older brother Cam — who plays for the NBA’s Atlanta Hawks — told him to “play fast, but think slow” after the Great Danes’ opening games.
“I think he could see that my mind was racing,” Reddish said.
Reddish played four minutes in UAlbany’s first game, then six in its second. He scored five points in the Great Danes’ first game and was scoreless in the second, but said he “was more comfortable in the second game” after the “surreal” experience of making his college debut.
On the team, Reddish said he often relies on graduate student De’Vondre Perry for help as he learns the college game.
“I’ve been taking a lot of advice from him,” Reddish said of the Temple transfer.