ALBANY — Both UAlbany basketball teams are looking to rebound from a tough loss — and each faces a tall task Saturday to do that.
Vermont’s teams head to SEFCU Arena for a 1 p.m. women’s basketball game and a 7 p.m. men’s game.
For the UAlbany women’s team, the matchup with the Catamounts is the Great Danes’ first game since falling Wednesday for the 10th-consecutive time to Maine. UAlbany, which boasts the nation’s No. 1 scoring defense at 47.7 points per game, allowed the Black Bears to make 56.3% of their shots in that contest.
“Obviously, that was a tough game for us,” UAlbany head coach Colleen Mullen said Friday. “But our players came back into practice [the next day] with a great attitude and ready to compete.”
With first-place Stony Brook unable to compete in the America East Conference playoffs, UAlbany (9-3 league, 16-7 overall) heads into the weekend tied with Maine for the postseason’s top seed, but head coach Alisa Kresge’s Vermont (8-4, 14-9) is only a game back of those two programs. Making things a bit more interesting, too, is that UAlbany and Vermont meet again Monday in Burlington.
“We really have to bring our ‘A’ game and play for 40 minutes against them,” Mullen said. “But we’re really just focused on one game at a time.”
UAlbany hasn’t lost a single game at home this season. At SEFCU Arena, the Great Danes are a perfect 11-0, and Mullen’s club still controls its own destiny in terms of securing home-court advantage for the duration of the conference playoffs.
Vermont has four players averaging at least 9.7 points per game, and its starting lineup is a potent group. Sophomore forward Anna Olson leads Vermont in scoring and rebounding per game at 12 points and 6.6 rebounds, while junior guard Emma Utterback averages 11.7 points and a team-best 3.7 assists per game.
For UAlbany, sophomore Kayla Cooper leads in scoring and rebounding per game at 12.4 points and 7.2 rebounds per game. Helene Haegerstrand is UAlbany’s second-leading scorer at 11.3 points per game.
After falling to last-place Maine on Wednesday at SEFCU Arena, UAlbany men’s guard Matt Cerruti said the Great Danes’ only choice was to push forward with a matchup against first-place Vermont looming.
“I know this loss stings a lot, but it’s part of basketball — sometimes you lose, [sometimes] you win and Coach just tries to tell us to keep chopping,” Cerruti said. “So, as a team, we try to stay even-keeled a lot. Win or lose, you’ve got to prepare for the next game, no matter who you’re playing. So I think going into the [Vermont] game, we’ve just got to go into it the same way we did last time and execute a little bit better.”
UAlbany (6-6, 10-14) put a strong scare into Vermont (11-0, 19-4) the first time the teams met. Playing its third road game in six days, UAlbany and Vermont were tied at 49 midway through the second half, but the Catamounts took control with a 16-2 run in what became a 73-61 win for the home team.
UAlbany had headed into that first game against Vermont with some momentum on its side. That’s not the case this time around after one of the team’s worst losses of the season, as Maine had only defeated one other Division I team this season before recording a double-digit win on the Great Danes’ home floor.
“We have to take advantage of the opportunity as a program when we get out there on Saturday night at seven o’clock because they’re a really good program,” UAlbany head coach Dwayne Killings said of the Catamounts. “I think anytime you have an opportunity to compete like that, you have to take advantage of it. . . . I don’t think [against Maine] we did that, but Saturday is a different animal — and we’re going to have to figure that out before that ball goes in the air at seven o’clock.”
Ryan Davis, the reigning America East Player of the Year, leads Vermont in scoring at 17.4 points per game. In the teams’ first matchup, Davis had a team-high 17 points on 6 of 8 shooting.
UAlbany’s Cerruti scored a game-high 22 points against Vermont earlier this season, while Chuck Champion and Jamel Horton each scored 11.
Of UAlbany’s active players, Horton leads the team at 11.7 points per game and Cerruti is next at 11.3.