Albany

UAlbany men’s basketball keeping focus on Maine ahead of weekend rematch with Vermont

UAlbany men’s basketball player Jamel Horton speaks to media before practice at SEFCU Arena in Albany on Tuesday, September 28, 2021.
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UAlbany men’s basketball player Jamel Horton speaks to media before practice at SEFCU Arena in Albany on Tuesday, September 28, 2021.

ALBANY — Even as they’ve started to win with more consistency after a rough start to the 2021-22 season, there have been few games the Great Danes entered as a clear-cut favorite.

Wednesday’s contest at SEFCU Arena fits into that category — and represents an opportunity the UAlbany men’s basketball program cannot allow to slip away.

“We’ve got to be mature enough to know that every game matters. Every team is good enough to win,” UAlbany senior guard Jamel Horton said Tuesday. “So, we’ve just got to come out and play hard like we would against anybody else.”

The maturity is needed to ensure the Great Danes don’t fall victim to looking past their next opponent. Before taking on first-place Vermont this Saturday at SEFCU Arena, UAlbany plays last-place Maine at 7 p.m. Wednesday. That series of games, Horton said, makes for “an interesting week; we play the worst team in the league and the best team,” but he noted he meant “no disrespect to” Maine with that statement, which simply reflected the reality of the America East Conference’s standings. 

“Just watching the film, I’m kind of surprised they’re one and nine, one and 10 — whatever it is — because I think they’re pretty good,” Horton said of the Black Bears.

But Maine (1-10 America East, 4-18 overall) hasn’t won very many games this season, and the Black Bears bring a five-game losing streak into its matchup with a UAlbany (6-5, 10-13) club coming off a win against defending league champion Hartford. Maine’s last win was a seven-point win against New Hampshire, and that victory is the Black Bears’ only win this season against a fellow Division I opponent.

Both Horton and UAlbany head coach Dwayne Killings said the heavy volume of 3-point attempts within Maine’s offense is an area of concern for the Great Danes. On average, Maine takes 21.4 shots per game from 3-point territory — UAlbany takes 18.5 — but head coach Richard Barron’s team only makes 29.5% of them.  In its lone America East win, Maine made a spectacular 14 of 28 from 3.

“I think if they make 3s,” Killings said, “they can become pretty dangerous.”

A locked-in UAlbany team, though, shouldn’t struggle with Maine. In conference play in per-possession rankings, the Great Danes have the America East’s best defense and Maine has the league’s worst offense. 

“We’ve got to handle our business,” Killings said of the matchup with Maine.

UAlbany is in fourth place in the America East standings. With a win against Maine and some help from elsewhere around the conference, it’s possible for the Great Danes to set up a showdown of the top-two teams in the conference standings when Vermont visits Saturday. Previously this season, UAlbany lost 73-61 to Vermont in Burlington in a game that was tied with less than 10 minutes to go.

But, Horton said, the Great Danes aren’t thinking about any weekend plans yet.

“I feel like everybody in our locker room should be worried about Maine, and Maine only,” Horton said. “That’s the next game on the schedule, and we didn’t beat them yet. You know what I mean? So, no matter what their record says, or how we feel about  them — and that goes for any team — you can’t overlook them. You’ve got to show up and play the game.”

BUILDING ON IT

Aaron Reddish — UAlbany’s talented 6-foot-7 freshman — delivered a starring sequence in last Saturday’s win against Hartford, scoring nine consecutive Great Danes points during a game-changing stretch.

Now, Reddish has the hard part in front of him.

He’s got to build off that effort.

“It’s extremely important [to me]. I think, last game, I took a huge leap,” Reddish said. “Definitely took a big step forward. So I’m trying to keep the ball rolling.”

The younger brother of NBA player Cam Reddish, Aaron Reddish’s rookie year in college basketball has seen the forward provide glimpses of the potential that Killings has said gives him “a chance to be an all-league player.”

On the season, though, Reddish has modest per-game averages of 2.6 points and 1.5 rebounds in nine minutes per game. 

The nine points Reddish scored in a stretch of less than 90 seconds were all the points Reddish scored Saturday, but Killings said he knows the player is capable of providing even more of a boost for a UAlbany club that only has 11 healthy scholarship players and just two healthy Great Danes — Matt Cerruti and Horton — averaging more than seven points per game.

“I told him the other day, he’s not a freshman anymore. He’s got to be a sophomore,” Killings said. “He’s got to think like one, he’s got to act like one — because we need him to grow up really, really fast.

“I think even going back to [our] first game, when he got out on the floor against Towson, he was only out there for two minutes — and things just happened because he’s got talent and athleticism. Well, now, things are happening for a reason. Now, can we get more out of it? And that’s the challenge that we’ve been trying to put on him because he makes our team better if he can do those things.”

Categories: College Sports, Sports, UAlbany

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