Amica’s long-awaited return a positive as UAlbany men’s basketball has comeback fall short in opener

UAlbany men’s basketball player Will Amica interviews with media before practice at SEFCU Arena in Albany on June 27.
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UAlbany men’s basketball player Will Amica interviews with media before practice at SEFCU Arena in Albany on June 27.

ALBANY – It had been nearly 21 months since Will Amica last played in a regular-season basketball game, a six-minute stretch on Feb. 13, 2021, that represented his only on-court contribution in his first two seasons with the UAlbany men’s basketball program.

But, when the Great Danes sent out their starting five Monday night to open the season against Towson at SECU Arena in Towson, Maryland, there was Amica, back in action after two seasons beset by injuries — including a 2021-22 campaign that he missed entirely after requiring procedures on both of his hips.

“Getting back on that court, it’s all I wanted this whole time,” Amica said during a post-game teleconference with reporters. “I’ve just got to get back in the flow of the game. That’s really it.”

Amica — who, as a high school junior at West Genesee, led his team to a NYSPHSAA Class AA championship as the most valuable player at the state final four — played only five minutes in UAlbany’s 67-62 loss to Towson, going scoreless with one rebound, a foul and two turnovers as his contributions to the box score, but for Amica and the rest of the UAlbany program, the return meant much more.

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“He’s an unbelievable kid,” said UAlbany acting head coach Bobby Jordan, who filled in once again Monday as head coach Dwayne Killings served the third game of his five-game suspension. “He lights up my day every day I come in. The guy’s always smiling. . . . His positive outlook on a daily basis is why he was able to start. 

“His body’s getting used to the rigors of Division I basketball again, but the positive outlook he brings every single day, it’s had a great impact on our team.”

COMEBACK COMES UP SHORT

UAlbany trailed the preseason CAA favorites 38-28 after being down by as many as 15 in the first half, but quickly stormed back in the second half.

Guard Ny’Mire Little, the only non-injured UAlbany player who didn’t see action in the first half — 2021-22 America East Rookie of the Year Justin Neely missed the game with a shoulder injury — started the second half, scored on the Great Danes’ first possession and sparked the team’s stretch run.

“Ny’Mire, being the type of guy that he is, he just came out competitive and got a bucket the first time he stepped on the floor the whole game,” UAlbany freshman center Jonathan Beagle said.

UAlbany’s second-half comeback was fueled by seven second-half 3-pointers, with UAlbany ultimately leading 59-57 when Beagle made 1 of 2 at the free throw line coming out of a media timeout with under four minutes left, but a Charles Thompson 3-point play put Towson in front for good with 3:33 to play.

UAlbany went the game’s final 4:49 without a field goal, including a possession where three straight open 3s were off the mark. Down 65-62 in the final 14 seconds, Jordan drew up a play out of a timeout for Trey Hutcheson, but he couldn’t handle a pass from Da’Kquan Davis, resulting in a turnover and allowing Towson to seal the win with free throws.

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“I thought [Hutcheson] looked like he was good to get an open look,” Jordan said. “I think we didn’t execute in getting him the ball.”

Gerald Drumgoole scored a team-high 15 points for UAlbany, with Davis and Aaron Reddish adding 12 points each.

BEAGLE’S DOGGED PERFORMANCE

In his collegiate debut, Beagle was in the thick of things from the opening tip-off.

The 6-foot-9 Hudson Falls native started at center and finished with nine points and nine rebounds in 32 minutes — third-most on the team — while duking it out in the post with the 245-pound Thompson.

Beagle was caught up in some hard fouls on both sides of the floor as the game grew chippy down the stretch, and the freshman drew the ire of the SECU Arena crowd as he tried to keep the Great Danes fired up.

“It fueled me a little bit, because I wanted to prove them wrong,” Beagle said. “But, at the end of the day, I had to keep my head and stay with our team, and try to get the win.”

“He played with ultimate swagger out there tonight,” Jordan said.

FAMILIAR FACE

Towson’s leading scorer was Sekou Sylla, who put up 19 points on 8 of 12 shooting and grabbed nine rebounds in 25 minutes off the bench. Sylla transferred to Towson from Nova Southeastern, where he was the 2021-22 Division II national player of the year after averaging 22.4 points and 10.4 rebounds per game on a team that started 31-0 before losing in the national quarterfinals.

Before that, Sylla spent his first two collegiate seasons in the Capital Region at The College of Saint Rose, where he was a Northeast-10 Conference All-Rookie Team selection in 2018-19, then an all-conference second-team pick the next season when he averaged 21.9 points and 11.6 rebounds per game.

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QUICK TURNAROUND

The Great Danes won’t have much time to think about their season-opening loss. Immediately after the final buzzer sounded, the Great Danes started a 20-hour countdown to their next game, a 5 p.m. contest Tuesday at Division III Immaculata.

Jordan said the Great Danes were set to travel to their hotel in the Philadelphia area immediately following the Towson game, about a 90-minute trip up I-95.

Categories: -Sports-, College Sports, Sports, UAlbany

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