ALBANY — Toughness, according to senior forward Trey Hutcheson, is going to be the defining quality of UAlbany men’s basketball’s 2022-23 season.
In the final moments of the Great Danes’ final exhibition tuneup on Wednesday at Saint Rose, Hutcheson made the kind of play that exemplifies just that.
With the Great Danes clinging to a 5-point lead, Hutcheson stripped the ball from Saint Rose’s Eric Fleming underneath the basket and, while losing his balance, managed to bat the ball off Fleming and out-of-bounds for a turnover before Hutcheson crashed into the padded wall at Daniel P. Nolan Gymnasium.
“I’m hoping they count that one as a toughness play,” Hutcheson said.
It was one of many toughness plays turned in by Hutcheson to help the Great Danes finish their preseason preparation with a 73-66 win.
A 6-foot-5 forward from Marion, Iowa, Hutcheson scored 12 points, grabbed seven rebounds and blocked four shots as UAlbany overcame a sluggish offensive start to beat a non-Division I opponent for the second time this preseason after similar struggles in Sunday’s win over Skidmore.
It was that final stat, those four blocks, that took Hutcheson himself by surprise.
“I guess it was a lucky day for that,” he said.
UAlbany graduate student guard Sarju Patel, who scored 14 points, didn’t see any luck in Hutcheson’s effort.
“He had four blocks and a steal at the end down there,” Patel said. “He’s giving us all he has. He has a hurt back right now, and he’s giving everything.”
UAlbany was once again without 2021-22 America East Rookie of the Year Justin Neely, who missed both of the Great Danes’ exhibition games with a shoulder injury. Acting head coach Bobby Jordan, coaching the second game of head coach Dwayne Killings’ five-game suspension, said after the game that as of now, Neely isn’t slated to be available for Monday’s regular-season opener at Towson.
Guard Malik Edmead also missed his second straight exhibition, and Will Amica was out after playing against Skidmore on Sunday. Sophomore Aaron Reddish, who missed the Skidmore matchup following a violation of team rules, returned against Saint Rose and went scoreless in three minutes of action off the bench.
Just as they did on Sunday against Skidmore, the Great Danes struggled to find any offense early, starting the game shooting 2 of 18 from the floor. UAlbany did find a groove late in the first half, with a steal and layup by freshman Marcus Jackson at the buzzer giving the Great Danes a 28-26 halftime lead.
“Once the ball started going through the net a few times, we picked up the pace, found transition 3s,” Patel said. “Even going through our [half-court] sets, we’re going much faster.”
“We just told the guys, ‘Listen, we’re getting good shots, we’re getting wide open looks,’” Jordan said. “They just weren’t falling. Which was kind of funny, because we’ve practiced here a couple times with everything we’ve got going on at our place, and guys really shot the ball well when we practiced. I think they just needed to adjust.”
UAlbany withstood a barrage of 3-pointers in the second half from Saint Rose guard Matt Constant, who hit seven shots from beyond the arc and finished with a game-high 25 points. Graduate student Da’Kquan Davis scored 15 of his team-high 20 points in the second half for UAlbany as the Great Danes led by as many as 12 before holding off a furious rally in the final minute that saw Saint Rose get as close as 69-66.
Clutch free throws by Davis and Ny’Mire Little put it away on the scoreboard, and Hutcheson’s defensive toughness made that stand up.
“Just an amazing job by [Hutcheson,” Jordan said. “It started on the defensive end. He did a great job of setting the tone for us defensively.”
Halftime score: UAlbany led 28-26. UAlbany scoring: Hutcheson 4-1-12, Beagle 2-4-8, Little 1-2-4, Patel 5-1-14, Jackson 2-0-4, Drumgoole 2-0-6, Davis 7-5-20, Kenter 2-1-5. Saint Rose scoring: Fleming 1-0-2, Lingonde 6-0-12, Phelan 0-2-2, Constant 7-4-25, Jusianiec 2-2-6, McGettigan 3-0-6, Zoller 4-0-11. Scoring totals: UAlbany 25-14-73, Saint Rose 23-10-66.