Through five games, all losses, UAlbany men’s basketball head coach Dwayne Killings has liked the progress his team has shown. The schedule — by design — hasn’t been an easy one, and the first-year head coach appreciates how his club has approached its opening stretch of games.
“I think what our guys are learning is we can play and compete with anybody,” Killings said after Monday’s loss at No. 10 Kentucky.
And, on Wednesday, the Great Danes get their best chance yet to break through with the first win of Killings’ head-coaching career.
To wrap up its play in the Eastern Kentucky Invitational, UAlbany meets Eastern Illinois at noon Wednesday in a neutral-court game at Eastern Kentucky. On the season, Eastern Illinois is 1-4; its only win came against a non-Division I opponent and it has lost by an average of 26.5 points per game against Division I foes. Both UAlbany and Eastern Illinois played Eastern Kentucky as part of the invitational, with UAlbany losing its matchup by 13 points and Eastern Illinois dropping its game against the Colonels by 39.
UAlbany, of course, cannot take any opponent lightly. While the Great Danes have mostly delivered solid efforts since the rough second half in their opener against Towson, their offense ranks in the bottom 30 nationally in adjusted efficiency, according to kenpom.com, and they’re averaging fewer than 60 points per game on 38.1% shooting from the field.
UAlbany is coming off a game, though, that Killings saw plenty of things he liked. While the gap between UAlbany and Kentucky was apparent in terms of athleticism and talent — Kentucky out-rebounded UAlbany 48-24 and made 54.2% of its shots — the Great Danes played with composure throughout the contest. While the Wildcats won by 25 points, UAlbany was competitive into the second half of the contest and committed a season-low 10 turnovers against Kentucky.
“We competed and we represented our program the right way,” Killings said.
After a poor showing against Eastern Kentucky, De’Vondre Perry had a bounce-back game against Kentucky. The Great Danes’ leading scorer on the season at 13.2 points per game, Perry scored 18 points against Kentucky after registering a season-low five against Eastern Kentucky.
The only other Great Dane averaging double-digit scoring is Matt Cerruti at 10.8 points per game, while Trey Hutcheson appears to be making his way toward joining that club. After not scoring in UAlbany’s opener, Hutcheson — who had a dozen points against Kentucky — has averaged 9.3 points per game in UAlbany’s last four games.
After playing Eastern Illinois, UAlbany reaches a slight break in its schedule. The Great Danes won’t play again until the following Wednesday when they compete at Kansas State of the Big 12 Conference. A road game at preseason Ivy League favorite Yale follows that contest before UAlbany returns for a home game at SEFCU Arena on Dec. 11 vs. Columbia.