UAlbany men’s basketball starts up Kentucky road trip

University at Albany's Jamel Horton handles the ball next to Harvard's Luka Sakota Wednesday, November 17, 2021.
PHOTOGRAPHER:

University at Albany's Jamel Horton handles the ball next to Harvard's Luka Sakota Wednesday, November 17, 2021.

ALBANY — Its offense has largely struggled this season. A number of metrics show that for the UAlbany men’s basketball team, which has only played three games — all losses — with its new coaching staff and heavily revamped roster from a season ago.

But in a key area, the Great Danes performed at a high level in its last game. In crunch time, when the importance of every possession is magnified, UAlbany found ways to keep scoring to keep itself in the game.

UAlbany lost 60-53 against Harvard, but its problem down the stretch was not on the offensive end of the court. After trailing 44-42 at the game’s final media timeout, UAlbany scored on six of eight possessions, as four players — Matt Cerruti, Jamel Horton, Trey Hutcheson and De’Vondre Perry — registered at least two points in the game-closing stretch.

Of course, that meant UAlbany wasn’t exactly shutting out Harvard on the other end of the court. Including possessions that saw Harvard receive final-minute free throws once UAlbany started to foul to extend the game, the Crimson scored on eight of nine possessions during the contest-closing stretch.

“We’re still learning about that stuff,” said Dwayne Killings, UAlbany’s first-year head coach. “It’s hard to prepare for that without the game-level pressure — the crowd, the referees, the opponent, the environment.”

UAlbany next plays at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at Eastern Kentucky, a contest that starts a three-games-in-five-days stretch for the Great Danes in the Bluegrass State. As part of the road trip, UAlbany will also play No. 13 Kentucky and Eastern Illinois.

Since losing its first game by 21 points, UAlbany has played back-to-back close games that saw it within a single possession of its opponent in the final minute. Against an Eastern Kentucky squad that’s 3-1 on the season — but 1-1 against fellow Division I opponents — Perry said the Great Danes know what they need to be better at in order to earn their first win.

“The details,” Perry said. “Small things. Making winning basketball plays. Unselfish plays. Just staying locked in completely.”

LINEUP TO WATCH

While UAlbany’s starting lineup was used in the final minutes against Harvard, a small-ball lineup was the Great Danes’ best statistical five-man group against Harvard.

For 5:14 of action vs. the Crimson, UAlbany substituted the 6-foot-5 Justin Neely in place of 6-foot-9 center Paul Newman to play with Cerruti, Horton, Hutcheson and Perry. In that lineup with nobody taller than the 6-foot-7 Perry, UAlbany outscored Harvard 11-2.

No other UAlbany lineup outscored Harvard by more than four points.

STILL WAITING

Killings said that sophomore Will Amica (hip) remained day-to-day ahead of the Great Danes’ games in Kentucky.

Amica earned regular praise from Killings during the offseason and preseason, but the guard has been unable to play so far this season. As a freshman, a variety of injuries hampered Amica, who only played in one game last season.

UAlbany is without Gerald Drumgoole (knee) and Sam Shafer (shoulder). Drumgoole is expected to miss the rest of the Great Danes’ action in 2021, while Shafer will miss the season.

Categories: College Sports, Sports

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