Fresh off its best defensive half of the season, the University at Albany men’s basketball team is looking to put the clamps down on the Hartford Hawks in tonight’s America East Conference matchup at the Chase Family Arena.
The Great Danes (4-1, 15-4) held New Hampshire to just 16 points in the first half of Wednesday night’s game in Durham, N.H. Although UNH eventually found the range in the second half, UAlbany went on to post a 68-62 victory over the Wildcats for the Danes’ first win at Lundholm Gym in the last six attempts.
“In the last 10 minutes of the first half against New Hampshire, we played some really good basketball,” said UAlbany head coach Will Brown. “Unfortunately, in the first five minutes of the second half, we were really flat, and UNH made a bunch of three-pointers to get right back into the game.
“But the good thing is that we made a lot of free throws on the road, and that’s very important. That was a very big defensive effort on the road. Any time you hold the home team to just 16 points, you are doing a good job.”
Sophomore forward Sam Rowley, who has produced three consecutive double-doubles since being inserted into the starting lineup, said that the team’s defensive effort was superb in the opening 20 minutes, but left a lot to be desired in the second half.
“We played great defense in that first half, but I don’t think we had the same energy in the second half, and a lot of that was my fault,” he said. “We’ve learned that we have to play at our best to beat our opponents, and we can’t take plays off. The good thing is that we know we have to play good defense every night, and we are used to winning the close games. It’s very interesting, because of all the close games we’ve been in this year, we only lost two of them, against Loyola and Quinnipiac. I’m not sure why we do so well, but you can’t teach that kind of thing. I think it’s an intangible.”
Senior captain Blake Metcalf thinks the Great Danes are giving their best effort most of the time.
“I don’t think it’s a situation of not giving it our best effort for 40 minutes, but it’s hard to get the same result for 40 minutes,” Metcalf said. “At this level, other teams are bound to get on some runs. As long as we know we are putting in the effort, we realize that the other team can make some runs against us. The key is to be calm and collected when that happens, because we know we can go on a run ourselves.
“We have a lot of confidence on this team,” Metcalf said.”
Senior point guard Mike Black scored 22 points against UNH for his second straight 20-point effort. He continues to pace the Great Danes in scoring at 16.4 points per game, with fifth-year senior Jacob Iati (14.0 ppg) second on the scoring chart. Rowley (7.7 pg, team-best 6.2 rpg), redshirt-freshman Peter Hooley (7.4 ppg) and 6-10 junior center John Puk (5.7 ppg) round out the starting lineup, with Metcalf, Jayson Guerrier and Luke Devlin the key players off the bench.
Hartford (3-2, 10-8) has lost its last two conference games after a 3-0 start, but the Hawks have a couple of dynamic players in
6-foot-6 sophomore post player Mark Nwakamma (13.9 ppg, 5.3 rpg) and 6-2 sophomore guard Yolonzo Moore II (10.5 ppg).
“Hartford spreads the floor, and they shoot a lot of threes,” said Brown. “They missed 19 three-point shots in their last loss to UMBC, but they have a lot of shooters, and they can also go inside to Nwakamma. We must be disciplined against them.
“The good thing about the changes in our lineup now is that we can score the ball from all five positions. Sam [Rowley] brings quiet toughness, and he can rebound the ball.”