The University at Albany basketball team continues the most challenging stretch of the America East Conference season when the Great Danes visit the Events Center to take on second-place Binghamton tonight.
UAlbany lost at first-place Boston University Thursday night and then fell to Vermont, which is tied for second place, in Saturday night’s 12th annual Big Purple Growl at SEFCU Arena. Tonight’s game completes a difficult three-game run over five days.
Binghamton (8-3, 15-8) traditionally has one of the toughest homecourt advantages in the league.
“It’s a tough environment there. Basketball is very important to them. It’s their baby,” said Albany head coach Will Brown. “They do a good job promoting their program, and they always pack the place. It’s a nice environment to play in, especially if you are the home team. It’s a true homecourt advantage.”
The Bearcats feature two of the league’s top players in D.J. Rivera, a 6-foot-4 swingman who leads the league in scoring at 20.4 points per game, and Emanuel Mayben, a
6-3 junior who played at Troy High School, Hudson Valley Community College and the University of Massachusetts before transferring to Binghamton. Mayben averages 9.7 points and 4.5 assists, but he was influential in two big recent Binghamton victories. He scored 22 of his 31 points in the second half to help the Bearcats rally past Vermont, and then made a 12-footer with 3.8 seconds in overtime to stop Stony Brook.
Malik Alvin adds 12.1 ppg, while 6-6 Reggie Fuller contributes 9.1 points and 6.5 rebounds per contest.
“They are quick and athletic. They like to force the tempo in transition,” said Brown. “They are always in attack mode. We’ll have to do a good job of getting back in transition, and playing them five-on-five. We can’t allow them to have odd-man situations.
“In the halfcourt, we have to take away their driving angles, and force them to become a jump-shot team.
“When we’re on offense, they will pressure us all over the court. We must value the basketball.”
Two Great Danes are not at 100 percent. Freshman guard Anthony Raffa continues to suffer from turf toe, while junior forward Will Harris hurt his knee against Boston University and played his worst game of the year against Vermont, scoring just two points.
“Anthony is sore, but it’s not to the point where it will jeopardize his playing,” said Brown. “Harris hurt his knee halfway through the BU game. He’s got tendonitis, and he took a direct hit on the knee against Vermont. He’s favoring it, and it’s extremely sore. He didn’t practice [Sunday], but we’ll play it by ear how much he plays against Binghamton. His knee was definitely bothering him against Vermont. For him to go 33 minutes and get no offensive rebounds is not like him. He wasn’t an athlete Saturday night, and it was obvious that he wasn’t comfortable.”
Tim Ambrose, who tied a team record by scoring 29 points in the second half against Vermont, is tied with Harris for the team scoring lead at 13.1 points per game. Raffa adds 11.1 ppg, while senior forward Brian Connelly chips in at 8.0 ppg.
Louis Barraza came off the bench with 17 points, including 5-for-5 from beyond the arc, against Vermont.