This group of Great Danes is hard to figure out.
That’s the assessment of University at Albany head coach Will Brown, who is not sure exactly what kind of effort he will get this afternoon at 4 when his team hosts defending America East Confernce champion Maryland Baltimore County at SEFCU Arena.
The Great Danes were off to a 3-1 start in conference play and were tied for first place before dropping their last two games to Maine and Stony Brook, two traditional league doormats. In both games, the Danes didn’t show the kind of effort they did earlier in the season.
If UAlbany (3-3, 11-8) expects to beat the Retrievers (2-4, 8-10), the Danes’ engine must be at full throttle.
“This is the most difficult team I’ve coached,” said Brown, whose Danes led by as many as 11 points in the first half only to lose, 58-45, to Stony Brook Friday night. “This year’s group is unique. I think this is the biggest challenge of my career on a daily basis. It’s even more difficult than the 5-23 team.
“I’m getting frustrated very early and often, and our guys can sense that. It’s not helping matters. I’ve got to try to be more patient. I don’t have problems if we lose, as long as the effort is there. We’ve had a good effort for most of the season, but not in our last two games.”
Brown admitted that not having his “big three” at full strength hurt the Danes during their second-half struggles against Stony Brook. Tim Ambrose, the team’s leading scorer, played only 15 minutes because of foul trouble and scored just seven points. Will Harris scored 14 points and grabbed eight rebounds, but he was bothered by stomach flu symptoms all day and was hooked up to an IV just before the game. Freshman guard Anthony Raffa didn’t have one of his best shooting games.
“We didn’t play with strength or energy, and I take the blame for that,” said Brown. “We weren’t focused. They [the Seawolves] were a step quicker than us. Those loose balls were important to them. We’re not good enough to take anything for granted or to take any plays off.
“Will Harris was throwing up in the bathroom all day, and he wasn’t himself. Anthony Raffa had a tough game, and we definitely need more than 15 minutes from Tim Ambrose. If those guys play well on the same night, we win. If two of them play well, we still have a chance, as long as Brian Connelly chips in a little.”
UMBC features two of the league’s best players in senior point guard Jay Greene and senior forward Darryl Proctor. Greene was the America East Conference tournament MVP a year ago and is averaging 11.4 points and a league-best 6.9 assists per game.
Proctor is second in the league in scoring (19.6 ppg) and first in both rebounding (8.9 pg) and minutes played (39.4 pg).
Rounding out the key players for the Retrievers are forwards Matt Spadafora (8.7 ppg) and Justin Fry (7.4 ppg).
“They’ve got the best point guard in the league in Jay Greene and arguably the best player in the league, along with Boston University’s Johnny Holland,” said Brown. “I’m amazed at what Proctor can do at
6-4 and 235 pounds. He goes out and rips your heart out. He is difficult to defend, because he can post up, hit the 18-footer or beat you off the dribble. He’s a matchup problem for us. Everything runs through Proctor and Greene. Plus, they play 40 minutes of matchup zone.”