The University at Albany basketball team shifts gears in terms of opponent quality, but hopefully not in work ethic, when the Great Danes take on the University of Missouri-Kansas City at 2:30 p.m. today at Mohegan Sun Arena.
The game will be the third of four for the Great Danes in the Hall of Fame Tip-Off Tournament, but UMKC doesn’t have the star power of UAlbany’s last two foes — fourth-ranked Ohio State and defending Pac-12 champion Washington. The Great Danes posted one of their biggest upsets in program history with a 63-62 victory over the Huskies Tuesday night in Seattle.
“We talked about what this game means to our players after the big win the other night,” said UAlbany head coach Will Brown. “We are coming off a great win in a game nobody expected us to win. Now, people are talking about us a little bit. Also, some people think it was a fluke. They are waiting for us to fall on our face after that win. That’s the way people are nowadays, but I told our guys that if they liked the feeling after the Washington game, then they will continue to do what they’ve been doing every day leading up to that game, including playing hard, playing smart and playing unselfish basketball.”
Brown said the Great Danes know their roles.
“It’s an easy group to coach. All they want to do is compete and win. They know it’s Mike’s [Black] team, and we all play off Mike. If we need somebody else besides Mike to make a shot, we go to Jacob [Iati].”
This will be the first meeting for the Danes against the 1-1 UMKC Kangaroos, who beat Lincoln (Mo.), 99-64, in their home opener, but lost to Seton Hall, 75-36.
Kirk Korver, a 6-foot-7 junior, is the top scorer for UMKC at 11.0 points per game. He is the younger brother of Kyle Korver, who plays for the NBA’s Atlanta Hawks.
Fred Chatman, a 6-9 junior center, adds 6.5 ppg and 7.0 rebounds per outing.
Rounding out the probable starting lineup are 6-1 sophomore guard Estan Tyler (7.5 ppg), 6-1 junior guard Nate Rogers (2.0 ppg) and 6-7 junior forward Trinity Hall (6.5 ppg).
“I think UMKC is a lot like Hartford from our league,” said Brown. “They space the floor, try a lot of backdoor cuts and have a lot of movement. They will shoot a lot of threes.”
Black, coming off a 22-point effort against Washington, where he sank the game-winning layup with three seconds left, leads the 2-1 Danes in scoring at 19.0 ppg. Iati, a graduate student who scored 20 against Washington, is next at 14.0 ppg. Center John Puk produces 8.7 points and 5.6 rebounds per game.
The Great Danes take on either Norfolk State or Loyola in the final round Sunday.
DANES SIGN TRIO
UAlbany announced the signing of three recruits for next season.
“I am excited about adding Lamin [Fulton], Levan [Shengelia] and Dallas [Ennema] to our program,” Brown said. “Each has excelled on the court and in the classroom. They will fit in well at Albany and represent our program in a positive manner. All three have the ability to make an immediate impact. The early-signing period was a huge success for us. We will continue to recruit, and we will complete our 2013 class in the spring.”
Fulton is a 5-10 guard who previously played at both Saint Peter’s of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference and Northwest Florida State Junior College, which lost in the 2012 NJCAA national championship game. He averaged 8.9 points and sank 59 treys at Saint Peter’s. He also was the Philadelphia Catholic League Player of the Year in 2011.
Shengelia is a 6-9, 250-pound forward who previously played at the University of Rhode Island and at Odessa Junior College.
Ennema, a 6-7 forward, averaged 19.1 points and 8.2 rebounds as a junior at Sheldon High School in Iowa. He played for the same AAU program that produced Puk and former Great Danes Brent Wilson and Brian Lillis.