Playing against No. 10 Kentucky, a program that’s won eight national championships, the UAlbany men’s basketball team was competitive through the early part of Monday’s second half before falling 86-61 at Rupp Arena in Lexington, Kentucky.
“I’m proud of my guys. I’m proud of our team,” UAlbany head coach Dwayne Killings said. “I thought we competed our tails off. I thought we really grew from the last game. One of the things we talked about for our program was just being selfless in this game and just consuming themselves with this opportunity to play an unbelievable program.”
The defeat dropped UAlbany’s record to 0-5 on the season. The Great Danes play Wednesday against Eastern Illinois in a neutral-court game at Eastern Kentucky. On the season, Eastern Illinois is 1-4 with its only win coming against a non-Division I opponent.
UAlbany’s only lead was at 3-2, but Kentucky’s lead rarely reached double-digit status through the game’s opening 24 minutes. But after Trey Hutcheson made a pair of free throws to bring the Great Danes within 43-35 a few minutes into the second half, Kentucky put together an 18-4 run that solidified its control of the game. From there, Kentucky led by at least 15 points the rest of the way and by as many as 26 as it improved to 4-1 on the season.
“Kentucky’s a really good basketball team. You turn it over, they make you pay. The runs come at you really, really fast, but I thought it was a great test for our program,” Killings said. “I thought we got better in the game and I’m thankful for the opportunity. I think it’s going to pay huge dividends for us as we move forward in our season.”
De’Vondre Perry led UAlbany with 18 points and five rebounds, while Trey Hutcheson added a dozen points. Jamel Horton contributed seven points and eight assists for the Great Danes. No other players scored more than five points for UAlbany, which made 7 of 25 shots from 3-point territory.
For Kentucky, TyTy Washington Jr. scored 20 points, Keion Brooks Jr. registered 17 points, and Oscar Tshiebwe produced a double-double with 12 points and 14 rebounds despite only playing 23 minutes due to foul trouble.
UAlbany trailed 37-28 after the first half. Perry and Hutcheson each scored seven points in the first half for the Great Danes. The Wildcats made 16 of 27 shots in the first half and out-rebounded the Great Danes 24-9.
For the game, Kentucky out-rebounded UAlbany 48-24 and made 32 of 59 from the field.
UAlbany struggled shooting throughout the game. The Great Danes made 12 of 34 shots before halftime and 12 of 36 after it. UAlbany, though, did take care of the ball, as the Great Danes committed a season-low 10 turnovers.
Kentucky head coach John Calipari, a Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame member, noted how UAlbany’s relatively low number of turnovers was telling.
“They were playing harder than us and were ahead of the action versus us coming at them,” Calipari said. “That aggravated me more than anything.”
Five players recorded double-digit scoring for Kentucky, which only received eight of its 86 points from the bench.
Before Monday’s game, UAlbany freshman Justin Neely was named the America East Conference’s rookie of the week.
Neely averaged 9.5 points and seven rebounds per game last week in losses against Harvard and Eastern Kentucky.
Against Kentucky, Neely had four points and two rebounds in 14 minutes.