ALBANY — It was the game within the game.
UMass Lowell’s Max Brooks — a 6-foot-7 forward that UAlbany’s Paul Newman described as like a “pogo stick” — blocked one shot after another.
And the 6-foot-9 Newman made sure the Great Danes kept getting the necessary second-shot opportunities they needed.
In UAlbany’s 57-47 men’s basketball win Wednesday at SEFCU Arena, Brooks blocked 10 shots and Newman gathered 11 offensive rebounds as part of a career-best rebounding night with 16.
Newman’s total of offensive rebounds was one shy of matching the best single-game effort this season in Division I men’s basketball, as three players have grabbed 12. Meanwhile, Brooks was also one shy of matching a single-game high nationally this season, as Auburn’s Walker Kessler blocked 11 shots in a late-December game.
On a night that saw UMass Lowell make 38% of its shots — and commit 21 turnovers — and UAlbany convert 27.3% of its field-goal attempts, the dueling efforts of Brooks and Newman played as large of a role in the game’s outcome as anything else.
UAlbany head coach Dwayne Killings said that Newman’s impressive statistical line on Wednesday, which also included a dozen points and two steals, demonstrated the work the graduate student has done behind-the-scenes. Newman has averaged 4.1 points and 3.9 rebounds per game to date this season.
“He’s been in the gym working with coach [Dannton] Jackson, working with coach [Hamlet] Tibbs on his game, and it shows,” Killings said. “He’s playing a lot more confident.”
In an odd way, too, Newman’s big night was helped along by Brooks’ block party, which was something UMass Lowell head coach Pat Duquette pointed out.
“It’s encouraging for Max [to have 10 blocks], but that’s not a good sign for us. . . . I thought we relied on that too much. Max has got a unique gift; his timing is great, he’s a really elite shot blocker. But I think that looks like a good stat, and it actually is a very telling one because that means we’ve relied on him far too much. We gave up too many drives, which he had to help on — and, usually, the other stat that goes along with that, that’s connected, is [the opponent’s] offensive rebounds because every time he goes for a block, we have to give up position to a center, and they had 20 offensive rebounds. So I think those two stats are important and connected, and tell a little bit about what happened.”
Duquette was quick to point out that he didn’t mean to “discredit [Newman] at all.” The UAlbany center, Duquette said, took advantage of the opportunity to give his club extra ones.
“He was a handful, strong and a little quicker to the ball than us,” Duquette said.
BACK IN ACTION
While UAlbany played against UMass Lowell without Tairi Ketner and Justin Neely due to health-and-safety protocols, and closed the game without De’Vondre Perry (leg) available, the Great Danes welcomed back Matt Cerruti, Luke Fizulich and Trey Hutcheson after that trio had missed the last two games.
Regular starters Cerruti and Hutcheson each came off the bench in their returns from health-and-safety protocols, and Hutcheson played 22 minutes and Cerruti garnered 30. Cerruti scored a dozen points and had five rebounds, while Hutcheson contributed five points and three rebounds.
Unable to be with the Great Danes for their games last week, Cerruti said he watched those contests — both UAlbany losses — while video-chatting with Hutcheson.
“We had to stay in different places, but we watched the games basically together on FaceTime, and we were going crazy — cheering, screaming. I mean, it stinks not being able to have any effect on the game, but it was definitely a different experience watching it; you kind of see the game differently. So I think we took some things that we could learn from it.
“It just stunk not being there, but it’s good to be back.”
UAlbany next plays Saturday against NJIT at SEFCU Arena. The Great Danes are 5-10 overall and 1-2 in America East play ahead of that game, while NJIT is 8-6 overall and 3-1 in league games.