No-frills defense is just as important as the no-stars offense for the University at Albany basketball team.
The 7-2 Great Danes will rely on their balanced team effort on both ends of the court when they travel to Colgate to take on the Raiders in a non-conference game this afternoon at 2.
“Our defense is a lot like our offense in that our team doesn’t have a lot of great individual defenders. We try to do our best to defend as a team,” said UAlbany head coach Will Brown. “We only really have one lock-down defender in Tanner Gibson, and he’s injured right now, so he can’t play. The good thing is that we have a lot of solid defenders who know our defensive concepts.”
Brown also pointed out that the Great Danes’ scouting reports are invaluable as part of the team’s defensive game plan.
“We spend a lot of time learning about our opponents’ preferences. We try to take away their individual strengths,” he said. “The problem is that it’s easy to simulate the other team in practice, but it’s much harder to execute against it during the game.”
In order to slow down the Raiders, UAlbany must neutralize their perimeter shooters.
“Colgate is a very unselfish team that averages 14 assists a game,” said Brown. “They also average 10 three-pointers a game. They are a lot like Hartford in that they like to spread you out. They have a 6-foot-10 center who starts, but they like to take him out early and use two smaller kids who are more like small forwards.”
In order to defuse Colgate’s offense, the Danes must use their taller front line.
“We want to force them to throw the ball inside, and we must defend their three-point shooters,” he said.
UAlbany has now won four straight games and is off to its best start as a Division I program. Mike Black, a senior point guard, tops the Danes at 17 points per game, while fifth-year senior Jacob Iati contributes 15 ppg.
The other points come from different players each night. Starters Jayson Guerrier, Blake Metcalf and John Puk each average between five and six points a game, while the Australian duo of Sam Rowley and Peter Pooley contribute seven and six ppg, respectively, off the bench.
UAlbany is ranked 25th in the College Insider Mid-Major Top-25 poll.
Murphy Burnatowski, a 6-foot-7 senior forward, produces 16.6 point and 7.0 rebounds per game for the 3-6 Raiders, while 6-5 junior guard Pat Murphy adds 14.2 ppg. They have combined for 51 three-pointers so far. Mitch Rolls, a 6-0 senior, is next on the scoring chart at 7.1 ppg. Colgate averages 67 points per game.
“I’m pretty sure we can score against them, but the challenge will be to stop them defensively,” said Brown.
UAlbany returns home to play South Carolina State Wednesday night at 7 at SEFCU Arena.