Faced with its longest conference road trip of the season, in terms of mileage, the University at Albany basketball team heads to Baltimore with confidence on several fronts.
The Great Danes begin the long two-game trek tonight against the University of Maryland Baltimore County. They head to Maine to take on the Black Bears Saturday night.
After last Saturday night’s blowout of Binghamton during the 16th annual Big Purple Growl, the Great Danes appeared revitalized and secure in the knowledge that their top players, Mike Black and Jacob Iati, were back in form. The Great Danes (6-4, 17-7), who snapped a three-game losing streak, are also confident in their bench after they used 13 players, with 11 of them scoring against the Bearcats.
“I’m glad that a lot of guys contributed for us against Binghamton,” said Black, who snapped out of a 9-for-57 shooting slump over his previous four games by making five of eight shots from the floor and scoring 13 points.
“Finally, I shot the ball pretty good against Binghamton. I got my shot back,” he said.
Redshirt freshman Peter Hooley said the Great Danes will be tougher down the stretch after utilizing more of their depth.
“I would say we are very confident in our bench,” he said. “It was good that Mike and Jacob got their shooting touch back, but it was also a lot of fun Saturday night because so many of the guys finally got a chance to play. [Walk-on] Reece Williams scored his first collegiate basket, and everyone got a chance to show what they can do. Now, we know that a lot of the guys can contribute if we need them to.”
UAlbany has been solid on the road all season, winning eight of their 10 true road games. They are also 1-1 on “neutral courts.”
“Our only bad game on the road this year was at Vermont,” said Hooley. “We like to bring our own energy on the road. Coach always tells us that good teams win at home, and great teams win on the road.”
UAlbany head coach Will Brown said the Great Danes’ victory over Binghamton was helpful in raising the team’s confidence level, but he also added that they will need to play inspired basketball on the road over the next several weeks in order to secure a high seed for the upcoming America East Conference tournament. Four of their final six remaining conference games are on the road. They also play their BracketBuster game on the road at Fairfield.
“Obviously, if we can get some momentum, we can position ourselves in the standings,” said Brown. “We need to take our opportunities on the road. UMBC has won its last two games, and they are playing much better than they were when we faced them the first time.”
Brown said there should be a large contingent of UAlbany fans in Baltimore because a gorup of 100 Iati family and friends from York, Pa., are scheduled to come to the game. He also said his team seems to play better on the road than it does at home.
“We’ve been more relaxed on the road. We’ve played tighter at home. Sometimes, you get complacent at home, and you take things for granted, like sleeping in your own bed. On the road, you are out of your element, and you need to focus more.
“A lot of the guys are feeling good about themselves after the way they played against Binghamton,. In a game like that, you can reward guys who don’t normally get a chance to play. At this point in the season, we have our regular rotation set, but that was an opportunity for the guys to show me something.”
Black (15.2 ppg) and Iati (12.7 ppg) are UAlbany’s top scoring threats, while Australians Hooley (8.5 ppg) and Sam Rowley (8.2 ppg) round out the starting lineup along with 6-foot-10 junior center John Puk.
UMBC is 4-5 in the league and 6-16 overall, but the Retrievers are 5-5 at home. Brett Roseboro (9.9 ppg), a 6-10, 240-pound junior center, has missed the last three games with an injury and is doubtful for this game, but the Retrievers have several other players to keep an eye on: 6-2 senior guard Ryan Cook (15.2 ppg), 6-6 junior forward Chase Plummer (12.1 ppg, 6.4 rpg) and 6-4 senior guard Brian Neller (9.2 ppg, 58 three-pointers).