On paper, this game looks like a rout. Which is exactly why it should scare UAlbany.
The Great Danes (6-2 America East, 17-6 overall) play at UMBC (1-7, 5-18) at 7 tonight, beginning their second swing through the America East conference schedule. UAlbany has beaten the Retrievers 13 out of their past 14 matchups.
But do not chalk this up as an automatic W.
Peter Hooley goes back to Jan. 15, when a middle-of-the-pack Maine team upset UAlbany 81-79, thanks in large part to a poor defensive effort by the Great Danes.
“It showed we can be caught sleeping at any time,” he said.
He remembers the scene in Bangor right after the game drove home an important point: Every team views UAlbany as a big game.
“Watching them celebrate on the court . . . a January game,” Hooley said, “Everyone is going to come after us. We are still the reigning champions.”
UMBC may be 1-7 in conference, but it has only lost its last three America East games by an average of six points. Transfer Jarius Lyles is averaging 23.4 ppg. in conference play, while fellow guard Rodney Elliott adds 13.9 points per contest.
“What scares me the most is the bottom half of the league is playing small ball,” UAlbany head coach Will Brown said. “That bit us in the butt at Maine.”
With the Big Purple Growl game against Vermont coming up Saturday, this sets up as a proverbial trap game. Brown dismisses the idea his team could be looking past UMBC, especially with UAlbany trailing a Stony Brook that is undefeated in conference.
“It shouldn’t be” a trap game, he said. "We are on the back end of conference games. We really put a value on these.”
UAlbany has won four straight against UMBC, beating the Retrievers 73-59 on
Jan. 6 at SEFCU Arena behind Ray Sanders’ 16 points. Five Danes scored in double figures in a balanced attack.
As expected, junior forward Travis Charles will miss the rest of the season due to a reoccurrence of a heart condition. He has been out since December. He appeared in nine games and is not eligible for a medical redshirt. . . . Senior point guard Evan Singletary ranks in the top 10 in conference play in seven categories, including scoring, assists, steals, assist-turnover ratio, free throw percentage and defensive rebounds. He has played the most conference minutes of any player. . . . Hooley eclipsed 1,400 career points in UAlbany’s 86-60 win over Hartford last Saturday. He is fourth in career scoring for the Great Danes during the Division I era, behind Jamar Wilson (2,164), Tim Ambrose (1,582) and Mike Black (1,542).
UAlbany remains the best in the conference at getting to the line. The Danes are fourth nationally in free throws made, 11th in attempts and 27th in percentage (.743). They lead America East in all three categories. . . . The 2005-06 UA team, the first Danes team to make the Division I NCAA Tournament, will be honored Saturday at SEFCU Arena as part of the 7 p.m. Big Purple Growl game vs. Vermont.