In desperate need of a victory to snap a five-game skid, the University at Albany honors its three seniors playing their final regular-season home game this afternoon against Maine.
Game time is 2 p.m. at SEFCU Arena.
Although they will play at least one more game on their home floor during the upcoming America East Conference tournament, which the Great Danes will host March 6-8, seniors Brian Connelly, Jimmie Covington and Jerel Hastings know their careers are quickly coming to an end. A key home victory would make the game more memorable.
“We’ve got to get back on track,” said UAlbany head coach Will Brown. “We need some momentum. It’s very important to win this game for the seniors. It means something for the standings.
“We didn’t help ourselves the first time we played Maine. They scored 32 points off turnovers in that game. We know they will play a 3-2 zone the whole way against us. We’ve got to make some shots, and we’ve got to defend better than we have.”
The Danes (5-8 America East, 13-13 overall) are in seventh place in the standings. Maine (4-9, 9-17) is right behind in eighth. The Danes need a win or two in their final three games to avoid sliding into the play-in game of the conference tournament.
All three seniors, who are expected to be in the starting lineup, contributed to the Danes’ program over the last several seasons and will be missed.
Brian Connelly, a 6-foot-8, 225-pound forward from Camden Catholic High School in Audubon, N.J., is averaging 7.8 points and 4.9 rebounds per game. He is the top returning scorer from last year’s team, when he produced 10.1 points and 5.3 rebounds a game.
“Brian has been a great team player for us,” said Brown. “He’s a tough kid and a great student-athlete. He’s a warrior. He’s been battling diabetes on a daily basis. This year has been tough on him, because he changed his regimen with his diabetes. He’s not giving himself insulin at halftime. It’s all new to him, and it took a while for his body to adjust to the new routine.
“He’s a great kid from a wonderful family. He’s going to leave here with at least two championship rings, some great memories, a degree and a good life.”
Covington, a starter earlier in his career, is a 6-7, 245-pounder from Morgan Park High School in Chicago. A captain, he is averaging 1.2 points and 1.8 rebounds.
“Jimmie has played about every role for us,” said Brown. “From starter to sub to not playing much at all to being a captain. He’s always done everything to the best of his ability without a complaint. He’s always done everything he can do to help us win. Along with Brian Connelly, he will leave here with at least two championship rings and some outstanding memories.”
Hastings, a 6-5 swingman from South Oak Cliff High School in Dallas, contributes 4.0 points and 2.5 rebounds a game.
“He’s been our defensive stopper. He’s a guy we wanted to get more aggressive offensively, but that’s not his demeanor,” said Brown. “He’s a very laid back individual, but he’s done a terrific job defending for us. He’s very unselfish.”
UAlbany most likely will play without freshman point guard Anthony Raffa (sprained toe) and 6-5 sophomore Louis Barraza (right Achilles sprain). The team also announced that 6-8 junior forward Scotty McRae has been suspended indefinitely.
Sophomore guard Tim Ambrose tops the Danes in scoring at 13.5 ppg, followed by junior forward Will Harris (13.2 ppg, 6.5 rpg).