Albany

UAlbany men’s basketball seeks 3rd consecutive win at UMBC

University at Albany's Jamel Horton tries to keep the ball in bounds during a Jan. 12 game against o UMass Lowell.
PHOTOGRAPHER:

University at Albany's Jamel Horton tries to keep the ball in bounds during a Jan. 12 game against o UMass Lowell.

ALBANY — Without De’Vondre Perry in the team’s lineup anymore this season, the UAlbany men’s basketball team expects to play a bit differently on offense.

Running sets designed for Perry and allowing the 6-foot-7, 220-pound forward the freedom to isolate to find his own shots were staples of the Great Danes’ offense in their first 15 games, and first-year head coach Dwayne Killings said UAlbany knows the path forward requires the team’s coaching staff to retool how it seeks points. With Perry — the team’s leading scorer at 12.8 points per game — out for the season following a knee injury suffered last week, a renewed push for a diversified offensive attack has certainly been a focus leading into Wednesday’s 7 p.m. America East Conference game at UMBC, a contest for which Killings said Tuesday the Great Danes expect reserves Tairi Ketner and Justin Neely (health-and-safety protocols) back available.

Defensively?

Don’t expect the Great Danes to change much, if anything, from their solid mixture of man-to-man and zone looks that’s working so well.

“We talk about competing five guys against one,” Killings said recently of the Great Danes’ approach on defense.

It’s nothing new that UAlbany’s strength is its defense, but the Great Danes have been even better in conference play than they were in non-conference action — and that’s despite a lackluster performance in the team’s America East opener against Binghamton, which saw the Great Danes allow a season-worst 88 points. On the season, according to the kenpom.com database, UAlbany ranks in the top half nationally in adjusted defensive efficiency.

In conference play, though, UAlbany jumps to No. 1 based off its first four America East games in defensive efficiency. UAlbany, which ranks in the middle of the pack amongst America East offenses, is several points ahead of UMass Lowell in the league’s defensive rankings; the Great Danes’ league-best defense has allowed 94.2 points per 100 possessions.

What’s fueled that strong defensive start has been UAlbany’s ability to create turnovers. In its first four league games, UAlbany’s opponents have turned the ball over on nearly a quarter of their possessions, as the Great Danes’ pressure on the perimeter has paid off. 

Killings credited the strength of the Great Danes’ non-conference slate, which included three games against Power 5 opponents, in helping to form UAlbany’s defensive identity.

“I think out of it, we got a lot of confidence,” Killings said Tuesday during a teleconference with reporters. “So our guys come out and we’re very aggressive on defense. I think we understand our defensive rotations better now. I think we understand the value of preparation better now. So when they sniff things out, we’re able to disrupt teams by getting deflections, by getting steals, which creates offense for us. But, most importantly, I think we get confidence by our ability to guard in the half court, and also guard in the full court when we extend our pressure out there, and then I think it builds into our offense where we get some decent looks.”

Recently, too, UAlbany has mixed more possessions of zone defense into its game plan.

“I think that gives us that second wave of energy that we need, sometimes,” said UAlbany guard Jamel Horton, whose team has allowed 55.7 points per game in its last three contests.

While UAlbany (2-2 America East, 6-10 overall) is coming off back-to-back wins, UMBC (1-3, 6-9) is coming off back-to-back losses. The most recent of those losses for UMBC was a 14-point defeat Monday against Stony Brook, while UAlbany hasn’t played since its 15-point win Saturday against NJIT.

UAlbany played NJIT with only nine available players. Adding Ketner and Neely back into the rotation will give the Great Danes some extra lineup options — and a morale boost for a club that’s still less than a week removed from losing its top player, who became the fourth UAlbany player to suffer a season-ending injury this season. Even more than what Ketner and Neely can bring to UAlbany’s frontcourt, Horton said simply the “presence” of the two freshmen back with the team has been a positive development.

“It definitely gives us a little more confidence — you know, it’s a strength-in-numbers type of thing,” Horton said.

Keondre Kennedy, one of three UMBC players averaging double-digit scoring, leads head coach Jim Ferry’s team with a per-game scoring mark of 13.1. Without Perry available, UAlbany — just barely — has no double-digit scorers; Matt Cerruti and Horton each bring per-game scoring averages of 9.9 into the contest. While UAlbany likely needs Cerruti and Horton to offer some more scoring punch, Killings said more than those two Great Danes will be needed to replace Perry’s scoring, including program youngsters such as freshmen Ny’Mire Little and Aaron Reddish who haven’t played major roles to this point in the season.

“There’s some different things we could do, [but] the biggest thing is our freshmen, Aaron and Ny’Mire, are going to have to grow up really fast,” Killings said. “We’re going to have to put them in big moments and we’ve got to see how they respond to that. They’ve been working for it. I think they’re ready for it. Now, we’re going to find out here in the near future.”

OPPOSING SIDELINE

Former Capital Region basketball standout and UAlbany assistant coach Josh Pelletier is now an assistant coach with UMBC.

A player locally at La Salle Institute and Saint Rose, Pelletier was previously a member of former UAlbany head coach Will Brown’s coaching staff.

Pelletier was an assistant coach at UAlbany for Brown’s final seven seasons.

MORNING MATCHUP

Looking to bounce back from a loss that ended its seven-game winning streak, the UAlbany women’s basketball program plays host to UMBC at 11 a.m. Wednesday at SEFCU Arena.

While UAlbany (3-1, 10-5) is coming off its first loss in more than a month, UMBC (0-3, 1-12) hasn’t won since it opened the season with a victory against Division III Gettysburg.

While UAlbany’s roster includes multiple former Section II standouts in Grace Heeps (Columbia), Lilly Phillips (Cambridge) and Abby Ray (Saratoga Springs), UMBC’s roster includes former Amsterdam High School standout Antonia May. On the season, the freshman May has averaged 9.8 minutes per game in a dozen appearances.

Categories: College Sports, Sports

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