UAlbany men’s basketball lacks toughness versus hot-shooting Vermont

UAlbany's Malik Edmead handles the ball next to Vermont's Dylan Penn at HVCC Saturday.

UAlbany's Malik Edmead handles the ball next to Vermont's Dylan Penn at HVCC Saturday.

TROY — Toughness is a major component of a solid defense. Unfortunately for the UAlbany men’s basketball team, it has lacked both for much of this season.

The Great Danes allowed America East Conference-leading Vermont to shoot 66.7% from the floor in the first half and 60.7% for the game en route to a comfortable 87-68 victory for the Catamounts, who spoiled UAlbany’s annual Big Purple Growl Saturday afternoon before a crowd of 2,014 at HVCC’s McDonough Sports Complex.

Vermont (7-2, 13-10) has now won the last four meetings with last-place UAlbany (1-9, 6-19) and five of the last six. The Catamounts hold a 37-15 edge over the Great Danes in the all-time series.

Vermont placed five players in double figures led by Finn Sullivan’s 19 points. Dylan Penn added 17 points, followed by Matt Veretto with 16, Aaron Deloney with 14 and Kam Gibson with 13. Vermont made 13 of 28 shots from 3-point territory.

The Great Danes, who have lost seven straight games, shot only 28% from the floor in the first half, although they rebounded in the second half to shoot 47.1% for the game. Gerald Drumgoole Jr. was a one-man show for UAlbany in the first half and finished with a game-high 27 points on 8-for-15 shooting from the floor and 6-for-6 from the line. Jonathan Beagle chipped in with 12 points and nine rebounds, while Amsterdam product Marcus Jackson added eight points.

“We didn’t have any toughness tonight,” said UAlbany head coach Dwayne Killings. “Vermont had, like, seven guys shoot over 50% from the field. Our defense has been atrocious. We’re trying to do different things, but you know it hasn’t shown up in our games. If you want to win, you’ve got to be able to guard people, which is one of the pillars that we want to try to build a program on. We were pretty good at that last year, but this year, we haven’t been able to figure it out.”

Killings was extremely pleased that so many UAlbany fans showed up and supported the team on a frigid afternoon where temperatures hovered around 10 degrees, but he was very disappointed in the way his team contested shots.

“I always feel like we are on the other side of the toughness battles,” he said. “Whether it’s rotating over fast enough, or hitting bodies and being physical like Marcus Jackson. Marcus is probably the most physical basketball player we have, but it’s unfortunate that he’s a freshman. There are a few guys I thought we would be getting more toughness from.

“We have to wake up as a group. I think when we got down 17-2 to a really good team our guys began to panic. We didn’t have anybody to calm them down. I think we really have to find an element of toughness in this team. We have a few guys who are just not tough enough in terms of when they drive the ball to the rim or when they try to defend and rebound. If we can bring our guys to a higher level of toughness, then we can do tougher things [during] the game.”

Vermont jumped out to a 17-2 lead, and expanded that advantage to 40-17 later in the first half before heading into intermission with a 44-25 advantage.

The Great Danes pulled within 49-32 on a Drumgoole 3-pointer, but the Catamounts hit back-to-back treys and then later used a 12-0 run to pull away to a 70-39 cushion.

Both Trey Hutcheson and Drumgoole tried to remain optimistic that the Great Danes can turn things around in their final six games.

“We’ve just got to try and keep growing and keep learning,” Hutcheson said. “There are different things you can take from each game. We’ve got to learn from our situation and apply it to our next game.”

“I think the problem is that we take our offensive identity from our defense,” Drumgoole said. “We’ve got to fix that.  If we are missing shots, sometimes we don’t play enough on defense on the other end.“

Hutcheson said the Great Danes wanted to beat Vermont badly, but that every loss was meaningful.

“I don’t think anybody in this life likes to lose at anything,” he said. “Vermont is a very disciplined team, and they are extremely well coached. They play well together. Every time you make a mistake, they take advantage of it. It would have been amazing to have won this game. This one does sting a little extra, but we’ve got to move onto the next game.”

Killings said he doesn’t foresee any lineup changes down the stretch run. “The answer is that we’ve got to do more with what we have,” he said. “We have to establish ourselves better at the beginning of the game and keep going in the middle and at the end. We have to do the things we need to do at a higher level. There’s still an opportunity left for us in this season, but we’ve got to grab it and take advantage of it.”

UAlbany hosts Bryant Wednesday night at 7.

Reach Bob Weiner at [email protected].

Categories: College Sports, Sports, UAlbany

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