Albany

UAlbany men’s basketball earns 3rd consecutive double-digit win

UAlbany men’s basketball head coach Dwayne Killings.
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UAlbany men’s basketball head coach Dwayne Killings.

In the aftermath of last week’s season-ending injury to leading scorer De’Vondre Perry, the message from first-year head coach Dwayne Killings to his Great Danes was that each of them had to do “a little bit more” the rest of the way.

And, Wednesday, on the road, in the first competitive game the UAlbany men’s basketball team had played since Perry’s injury, that’s just what the Great Danes did.

While Matt Cerruti and Jamel Horton led the way, six UAlbany players outscored their per-game season average in an impressive 66-54 America East Conference win against UMBC at Chesapeake Employers Insurance Arena in Catonsville, Maryland.

“Adversity gives you an opportunity to grow,” Killings said after Wednesday’s win, the Great Danes’ third double-digit victory in a row. “And, now, we’re asking our guys to grow.”

Also: “I think our guys have really accepted that challenge.”

Cerruti scored 20 points, while Horton had 15 points, six rebounds and six assists in UAlbany’s sixth win in nine games since its 1-7 start.

The Great Danes led by as many as 13 points and held an advantage for more than 80% of the contest. UMBC, though, kept things interesting: UAlbany only led 30-28 at halftime, and nearly all of the first 17 minutes of the second half were played within a two-possession margin. 

But, following a back-and-forth stretch that left UAlbany with a one-point lead with five minutes to go, the Great Danes scored the game’s final 11 points. 

“I thought we just stayed with our game plan,” Killings said of the game-closing stretch, which saw UMBC miss its final seven shots and UAlbany methodically expand its lead. “I thought we put our feet in the sand a little bit deeper, I thought our kids competed a little bit harder — and we came out of here with a great win.”

Prior to Wednesday’s game, UAlbany (3-2 America East, 7-10 overall) had won its first contest without Perry, but that lopsided victory against NJIT never saw the Great Danes tested after halftime.

Against UMBC (1-4, 6-10), that wasn’t the case, and Horton said the Great Danes knew how to try to replace the crunch-time scoring of Perry.

“By committee, by committee,” said Horton, who scored 13 of his 15 points after halftime. “Obviously, that’s a big gap to fill. . . . Perry is one of the best players in the league, so we can’t expect one person to pick up the slack. We’ve got to do it as a team, and I think we’ve done that thus far.”

“Each play down, we kind of drew something up differently for a different player on the floor,” Cerruti said.

During UAlbany’s game-ending 11-0 run, Horton had six points, Cerruti scored four and Paul Newman had one. 

For the game, Newman produced seven points and eight rebounds in 19 foul-plagued minutes, while Jarvis Doles added seven points and six rebounds for the Great Danes. Chuck Champion scored six points.

For UMBC, Keondre Kennedy had 14 points and Nathan Johnson scored 11. Both teams shot below 30% from 3-point territory, but UAlbany scored a significant 40-26 rebounding advantage.

As expected, UAlbany’s two players — freshmen Tairi Ketner and Justin Neely — who had missed the team’s previous two games due to health-and-safety protocols returned Wednesday to the Great Danes’ rotation. In their returns to the court, Ketner and Neely competed wearing face masks, which Killings said “was required” for them to be able to play.

Ketner played one minute in his return, while Neely had nine points in seven minutes.

Neely and the starting five of Cerruti, Champion, Doles, Horton and Newman were the six Great Danes to outscore their personal per-game scoring averages in Wednesday’s win.

UAlbany plays Stony Brook, which defeated Binghamton Wednesday to improve to 3-1 in America East action, this Saturday at SEFCU Arena. Heading into that matchup, Cerruti said the Great Danes simply want to keep building on the habits they’ve been developing throughout the season.

“I think this is the way we envisioned ourselves playing. Our mentality has been to keep chopping. We’ve been preaching that, nonstop,” Cerruti said. “Those first couple of weeks [of the season] when we weren’t winning so much, we still kept that same mentality. Kept chopping, kept practicing, doing what we were doing. Didn’t overdo things. Tried to just keep the same routine, keep going, keep getting better — and, it’s paying off now.

“It’s easy when you can put your full trust into [a program] and trust the coaching staff, and I think as players we bought in fully and its starting to show.”

Categories: College Sports, Sports

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