The Weave: Capital Region Division I basketball teams navigate ups and downs

University at Albany's Ellen Hahne takes a shot between Bryant's Blanca Chastco and team mate Lucia Decortes Wednesday, January 10, 2023.
PHOTOGRAPHER:

University at Albany's Ellen Hahne takes a shot between Bryant's Blanca Chastco and team mate Lucia Decortes Wednesday, January 10, 2023.

It was a mix of success and struggle for the Capital Region’s Division I basketball teams this past week. The UAlbany women continued their undefeated start in America East play with a pair of wins, the Siena men and women each had ups and downs in 1-1 weeks, and the injury-riddled UAlbany men suffered back-to-back road losses.

Both men’s teams spend this week at home, with UAlbany playing its lone game of the week Thursday against Binghamton, while Siena gets a weekend homestand against MAAC newcomer Mount St. Mary’s on Friday and Fairfield on Sunday. On the women’s side, UAlbany’s lone game is Wednesday at Binghamton, and Siena travels to Fairfield on Thursday before hosting Iona on Saturday. 

Michael Kelly, Adam Shinder and Will Springstead cover college basketball for The Daily Gazette, and each week set the scene for the upcoming action.

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TAKEAWAYS FROM THE LAST WEEK

WESTERN NY STRIKES AGAIN

Yep, once again, Siena men’s basketball couldn’t make it through its western New York trip unscathed. The Saints started off with a tough-as-nails win over Niagara on Friday behind a big night from Javian McCollum and some clutch play down the stretch, but Siena’s unbeaten MAAC start was upended with a Sunday afternoon loss to Canisius. Siena has not swept a trip to Niagara and Canisius since the 2015-16 season.

DEPTH CONCERNS PLAGUE UALBANY MEN

Injuries have piled up for UAlbany’s men’s program throughout this season, and in last week’s losses to Bryant and NJIT, their continued toll was on full display. With Aaron Reddish not dressing for either game after head coach Dwayne Killings said the sophomore wing didn’t live up to “certain program standards,” and with Trey Hutcheson out against NJIT due to a back injury, the Great Danes dressed eight and seven players, respectively, in their two losses and now sit just a half-game ahead of last-place Maine in the America East.

SOME MORE LIGHT BULBS WENT ON FOR THE SIENA WOMEN

The Saints’ loss to Manhattan, particularly, made them realize what it takes game-in, game-out. As acting head coach Terry Primm said, “We understood what it means to play hard, but I don’t know if we understood what it means to play desperate.” They followed that with a lopsided win over Saint Peter’s in which they committed their fewest fouls this season (6) and tied a season-high for assists (21). Moving feet on defense, and the ball on offense, always works.

QUESTIONS FOR WHAT’S AHEAD

HOW BIG OF A LONG-TERM IMPACT WILL JORDAN KELLIER’S INJURY HAVE FOR THE SIENA MEN?

Shinder: First things first, the details. Kellier, a senior forward, suffered a foot fracture during practice last week and underwent surgery on Monday, with the hope he can return for the MAAC tournament in March. Statistically, the impact isn’t huge — Kellier averages 3.9 points and 2.4 rebounds per night — but he’s an important rotation piece who can provide a ton of energy at the right moment and is particularly important when the Saints have to defend bigger teams. Eventually getting Jayce Johnson back in the lineup will mitigate some of that, but no Kellier either forces Siena to play small or rely heavily on Michael Baer and Killian Gribben at the 4. Kellier’s absence will be felt.

Springstead: While Kellier certainly will be missed, I feel like the mental makeup of Siena is so strong that if he didn’t have a hope of returning for the MAAC tournament, the players would have thought, “next man up.” But since there is a hope, you can bet the common thought among the Saints is to go as far as they can so that Kellier can rejoin them.

Kelly: It matters a lot. Siena has quality depth this season, but it also has what I’ll term “finite depth,” in that the program isn’t long on scholarship players not already playing key roles. If Jayce Johnson gets back soon for the Saints, they’re in fine shape, but missing Johnson and Kellier is a lot to overcome — and that was evident this past Sunday at Canisius when Siena missed exactly the things both those players bring to the court. Siena should still be good to go to win a lot of games and contend for a MAAC title, but the long-term absence of Kellier is one the Saints will need to address in a meaningful way.

IS JONATHAN BEAGLE’S DEVELOPMENT WHAT YOU EXPECTED, AND HOW GOOD CAN HE BE AFTER FOUR YEARS?

Springstead: The one word UAlbany men’s head coach Dwayne Killings says the most regarding Beagle is “desire.” That should tell you he was going to improve noticeably, and he has since the beginning of the season. He has size and touch and a lot of physical skill, and what he still needs to work on is how to couple the mental approach to the game with that talent. All those AE Rookie of the Week honors point to good things, and I think it won’t be long before he rises to the top of opponents’ scouting reports.

Shinder: Beagle has been the best freshman in the America East this season, and he’s probably been the most consistent player on this injury-riddled UAlbany team. Beagle was bound to get plenty of opportunities this season with a relatively light frontcourt, but what I honestly expected to see were flashes of potential rather than the impressive consistency he’s provided. Beagle’s already a remarkably polished post scorer for his age and experience level. If his midrange and 3-point game matures, his ceiling at UAlbany is as an all-conference guy and potential America East Player of the Year contender. 

Kelly: 100% on the expected part because this is what Killings pitched for Beagle — and the long-term answer is he should be an America East Player of the Year candidate, as soon as next season. Of course, Beagle is a freshman putting up great numbers for a program that’s heading toward its fifth overall losing season, so, especially in today’s college basketball landscape, it’s fair to wonder how much more of his career is going to be spent at UAlbany. The Great Danes recruited Beagle successfully out of high school, and will need to re-recruit him, too, because he’s that good.

YOU GET ONE CHOICE FROM THE AREA’S TEAMS TO TAKE A GO-AHEAD SHOT IN THE CLOSING SECONDS OF A GAME. WHO YOU GOT?

Shinder: Oh, this is a fun one. I want someone who can either create their own shot or spot up off the catch, so most of the bigs are out, even though a Jackson Stormo post-up is about a reliable two points as you’ll find in the area. This came down to three candidates for me — Javian McCollum, Andrew Platek and Ellen Hahne. At the end of the day, I’ll go with Platek. If you look at any of Siena’s close, late wins this season, you’ll almost always find a key Platek 3-pointer or floater in the lane down the stretch. I also feel like he’s got a better chance of finding a more advantageous defensive matchup, since he’s not Siena’s primary ballhandler. Honorable mention to Siena’s Michael Baer, who has an incredible knack for knocking down shots late in the shot clock despite what could generously be termed as a “deliberate” release on his shot.

Springstead: Off the top of my head, I’m thinking of either Teresa Seppala, Ellen Hahne, Helene Haegerstrand, Andrew Platek or Javian McCollum. They’ve all hit big shots this season. But when push comes to shove — and it will on a last-second shot — I want to have someone who can withstand a no-call and still tickle the twine. I’ll choose Platek, only slightly above Hahne. 

Kelly: Could we go 3 for 3 for the guy with the Twitter handle of “@PlatekFor3?” We could . . . but I will go a different way, and take his Siena men’s teammate in Javian McCollum, who is the best among our area’s players at creating a shot, and can score from all areas of the court. I’ll throw an honorable mention, as well, to UAlbany women’s Morgan Haney, who is both fearless on the court and making 42.3% from downtown this season.

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NUMBERS TO KNOW

52.9

The field goal percentage for UAlbany’s Helene Haegerstrand, which leads the America East. That’s including making 44.1% on 3-pointers, on which she’s 26 of 59.

3

Consecutive upcoming home games for Siena men’s basketball, with Mount St. Mary’s and Fairfield visiting MVP Arena this weekend, then Iona coming to town next Friday. It’s not the easiest slate, but it’s a prime opportunity for the Saints to solidify their MAAC lead heading into February.

1

Minutes of rest that UAlbany men’s senior forward Gerald Drumgoole Jr. has received over the team’s last four games. Drumgoole played 39 minutes on Jan. 8 against UMBC, and has played all 40 minutes in each of the team’s last three contests.

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‘THEY SAID IT’

“Last year, I thought I let a couple of things slide, and you just can’t do that with kids. There’s certain program standards that you’ve got to live up to. I think Aaron’s really, really talented and I think he’s a really, really good person. I think if we hold the standard to him pretty high, and if he meets that, he’s got a chance to win a lot of games, to be a very productive citizen, and I think he’s got a chance to make a lot of money playing basketball.”

— UAlbany men’s head coach Dwayne Killings, after last Wednesday’s game at Bryant, addressing why sophomore wing Aaron Reddish did not dress for the game.

“Scouting against us, I’m sure, is a little difficult because on any given night, we have four or five players who can go for 20 points. But, again, they’re just so unselfish, they don’t care who gets the credit. . . . They continue to sacrifice their personal glory for the team.”

— UAlbany women’s head coach Colleen Mullen discussing her team’s depth.

“We’re ready to get back home and get to work. It’s a long season. Obviously, we need to continue to grow.”

— Siena men’s head coach Carmen Maciariello following Sunday’s loss to Canisius, discussing the end to the Saints’ unbeaten start to MAAC play.

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AWARD WINNERS

The Rookie of the Week honors keep coming, as UAlbany’s Jonathan Beagle and Siena’s Teresa Seppala both picked up their respective conference honors for the second straight week.

For Beagle, it was his fifth overall America East Men’s Basketball Rookie of the Week honor, one off Justin Neely’s total from 2021-22 and two away from the record seven weekly awards won by Jon Iati in 2003-04. Beagle averaged 16 points during the week, including a career-high 21 points last Wednesday at Bryant.

Seppala won her fourth MAAC Women’s Basketball Rookie of the Week honor. The freshman from Finland averaged 13.5 points and eight rebounds for the Saints last week, highlighted by a career-high 24 points on 6 of 7 3-point shooting in Saturday‘s rout of Saint Peter’s.

Categories: College Sports, Siena College, Sports, Sports, UAlbany

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