After three straight road games to start the season, the 1-2 University at Albany men’s basketball team couldn’t wait to get back home for tonight’s home opener with Central Connecticut State.
Unfortunately, the Great Danes won’t be at full strength.
Freshman point guard Anthony Raffa, who leaped over the media tables at center court and fell hard twice in pursuit of loose balls during Wednesday’s game at Bryant University, suffered a mild concussion after his second fall. UAlbany head coach Will Brown called his status doubtful.
Also, junior forward Will Harris, a transfer from the University of Virginia, sprained an MCL in his knee, and is also questionable for tonight’s game at the SEFCU Arena.
“If both Anthony and Will play, that’s terrific. If one can play, that’s pretty good. If neither one of them plays, we’ve got enough guys off the bench who can produce,” said Brown. “We’ve just got to step up.”
The Great Danes endured a tough stretch of games that started with back-to-back losses on the road to Big East foes Villanova and DePaul, respectively, last Friday and Monday nights. They flew back home on Tuesday, just in time to go to class and then to practice. Tuesday night, they drove to Smithfield, R.I., to take on the Bryant Builldogs.
UAlbany defeated Bryant in the Bulldogs’ Division I debut, 76-67, although the Great Danes let a 21-point lead with 10 minutes left slip into single digits.
“We’re very happy to be back home,” said Brown. “We’d love there to be a sellout, but no matter who shows up, we want them to come back, and that’s easier said than done. We’ve got to establish SEFCU Arena as a tough place to play. That’s always one of my goals every season. And we need to do that on the floor. It depends on how much energy we can create ourselves. Once we’ve done that, then the crowd can be our sixth man, but it all starts with how we play.”
Brown said he is still trying to figure out this season’s version of the Great Danes. He’s played 11 players in almost every game so far, and he has used several different combinations in his rotations.
“I like the talent and the depth of this team,” he said. “We’ve had great contributions from guys coming in off the bench. However, I think we’ve got to pay attention to detail for more periods of time, and to maintain focus. We’ve got eight new faces, like I’ve said several times already this season. They need time to learn the system and to get acclimated to it. It will take some time. There might be a bump or two on the road, but hopefully, we’ll come together sooner than later.”
Brown said the Great Danes have played fairly well for long stretches of all three games, so far.
“We played 30 minutes of good basketball against both Villanova and DePaul, but once we got up by 20 points against Bryant, we relaxed,” he said. “Even with that happening, we could have still won by 20 if we had made a few more free throws and focused a little more. But to be fair, I was tired myself going into the Bryant game, and I have to believe the players were tired, as well. That was a tough stretch for us. At least we are well rested for this game, and we should be fresh.”
Sophomore guard Tim Ambrose, who tied his career high with 24 points against Bryant, tops the Danes in scoring at 10.7 points per game. Harris is next at 9.3 ppg, followed by Raffa (8.7 ppg), backup swingman Louis Barraza (8.3 ppg), backup point guard Michael Johnson (7.3 ppg) and reserve forward Scotty McRae (7.0 ppg).
Brett Gifford, a 6-foot-11 junior center, leads the team in rebounding at 6.3 rpg, followed by Harris (5.0 rpg).
The Blue Devils, who have won 17 of the previous 26 meetings between the teams, are 0-2. They are spearheaded by sophomore guard Shemik Thompson, last year’s Northeast Conference Rookie of the Year. Thompson averages 12.0 ppg, while 6-6 Ken Horton recorded his fourth career double-double with 18 points and 10 rebounds in a last-second loss at Colgate. Horton is averaging 19.5 points and 6.0 rebounds so far. Marcus Palmer, a 6-6 senior, adds 7.0 points and 10.0 rebounds, while Joe Seymour produces 8.5 ppg.
Freshman guard Robby Ptacek averages 8.0 ppg,and has connected on nine of 11 free throws.