The University at Albany and Brown men’s basketball teams prepared for today’s 4 p.m. meeting in the Dick’s Sporting Goods NIT Preseason Tip-Off tournament at Syracuse in drastically different fashions.
While the Great Danes played 10th-ranked Pittsburgh on the road and got hammered, 89-56, Brown opened its season at home against Johnson & Wales and won easily, 86-66.
“We played one of the elite teams in the country, and they played a DIII team. There are no comparisons. You can take what you want from their game, but you can’t really compare the two,” said UAlbany head coach Will Brown.
The Great Danes were completely overwhelmed by the Panthers, who won last year’s Big East regular-season championship. Preseason Big East player of the year Ashton Gibbs poured in 21 points, and Travon Woodall scored a career-high 25 points to go along with 10 assists to lead the Panthers.
Junior guard Gerardo Suero, from the Dominican Republic, was solid in his UAlbany debut with 17 points, but the Great Danes couldn’t provide much offensive firepower beyond that. Junior guard Logan Aronhalt scored 13 points, and junior point guard Mike Black chipped in with 11.
“I think the Pitt game was tough on us, because we had to shut [John] Puk down because he was struggling,” Brown said. “He played only 10, 12 minutes. He’ll be a game-time decision [tonight]. We also have to limit Luke Devlin’s minutes, because’s not at 100 percent, either. We needed Puk against a big team like Pitt, but we’re playing on back-to-back nights, and we’ll have to play it by ear.”
Brown respects the Bears.
“We watched Brown film from a year go, and they return several of their key players,” said Brown. “They are pretty good offensively, and they score a lot. What we’re going to have to do is shut down their three-pointers and make them defend us. I think we can score on them.”
Brown was 11-17 a year ago, including 4-10 in the Ivy League.
The Bears, who have five freshmen and three sophomores on their roster, are led by 6-foot-8 junior co-captain Tucker Halpern, an All-Ivy League player who averaged 12.6 points and 4.5 rebounds a year ago, and sophomore point guard Sean McGonagill, who scored 14.6 ppg last season and produced 22 points and 10 assists against Johnson & Wales.
“Right now, we’re in a situation where when we get healthy, we’ll be a pretty good team,” said Brown. “We’re still putting the pieces together, and I don’t want to ask the new guys to try and do too much.”