The University at Albany men’s basketball team was embarrassed by the way it played at Vermont in the Great Danes’ first meeting with the Catamounts at Patrick Gym earlier this month.
On the other hand, the Great Danes were thrilled with their performance against league-leading Stony Brook Wednesday night, when they stunned the Seawolves, 77-67, in one of their best all-around games of the season.
Which UAlbany team will show up tonight, when the Great Danes host perhaps their biggest rival in the second part of the annual Big Purple Growl double-header at SEFCU Arena?
The women tip off at 5, followed by the men’s game at approximately 7:30. A near-capacity crowd is expected for the program’s winter homecoming, which includes a variety of special food and festivities throughout the day.
“We’re looking forward to having this matchup,” said senior forward Luke Devlin, who bounced back from a sore shoulder that kept him out of four straight games before playing some valuable minutes against Stony Brook. “We owe it to ourselves, and to our fans, to put in a better effort. We’ve evolved as a team since then. We won’t allow that to happen again.”
What happened in the first meeting was a 68-38 thumping by Vermont in a game where several Great Danes, including Devlin, Sam Rowley and Peter Hooley, were injured.
“We were within 23-21 of them with three minutes to go in the first half, and then Vermont went on a 9-0 run,” said UAlbany head coach Will Brown about the earlier meeting. “We were lifeless in the second half of that game at Vermont. Our guys were deflated because of all the injuries. We’re not a good enough team to be successful with so many key guys out.”
Brown agreed that Vermont may be the fiercest rivalry on UAlbany’s schedule.
“We’ve played some important games against Vermont. We’ve played three America East championship games against them. They’ve gotten the best of us during the regular season, but we’ve gotten the best of them when it counted the most, in the tournament. I have a lot of respect for Vermont. They are the most efficient team in the league on both sides of the ball.”
Brown said the Great Danes should have plenty of momentum for tonight’s game.
“That was just one game the other night. That’s what I told our players. But we should be hungrier than ever,” Brown said. “We imposed our will on our opponent.
“As far as the Big Purple Growl is concerned, it should be a great atmosphere. It’s the one game where everybody shows up. I just wish that every game was like the Big Purple Growl.”
Hooley (14.7 points per game, 87.4 percent from the line), Rowley (11.9 ppg, 6.6 rebounds per game), senior point guard DJ Evans (11.6 ppg) and senior swingman Gary Johnson (10.5 ppg) pace the 5-3, 11-10 Great Danes. Vermont (7-1, 13-9), is led by 6-foot-8 senior forward Clancy Rugg (12.9 ppg, 6.1 rpg) and 6-2 senior guard Sandro Carissimo (12.1 ppg).
“We owe them a butt-kicking,” said Johnson, who scored 19 points, including some dazzling dunk shots, against Stony Brook. “We are really excited to be playing them again. It’s always a bigger deal at the Big Purple Growl, because a lot of fans come out. There is a lot of emotion. The Stony Brook game gave us a lot of confidence.”
The two-time defending champion UAlbany women’s team (8-0, 18-3) will attempt to extend its 31-game conference winning streak in the opener. The UAlbany women rallied from a poor halftime performance to score 52 second-half points in their come-from-behind victory over Stony Brook Thursday night.
“We’re playing our third game in five days. Great teams battle through adversity,” said UAlbany women’s coach Katie Abrahamson-Henderson. “We can never get comfortable, because we have a target on our backs. I hope all the students will come out early to watch the women play.”