ALBANY — If ever a group of college students needed a winter recess, it was the banged-up University at Albany basketball team.
Unfortunately, the recess was not enough time for Jaraan Lands. Coach Will Brown hoped the forward out with a hamstring injury since the third game of the season on Nov. 16 would be back Friday when the Great Danes return to the court after a 10-day break break to face Columbia at Levien Gymnasium in New York.
But after a medical checkup, Lands will stay on the shelf until at least UAlbany’s first conference game, on Jan. 5 at UMass Lowell.
Stiill, the break served the Great Danes. UAlbany (7-6) last played Dec. 20 in Dallas, losing to SMU 71-53. The Columbia game is the Danes’ fifth road game of December. Columbia (4-6) lost 78-67 at Miami Wednesday.
“The rest was good for us,” sophomore Joe Cremo said. “Sometimes, it’s good to get your mind off [basketball].”
Brown agreed. “It’s a long year,” he said. “The mental break is just as important [as the physical].”
This is the first meeting between these two schools since 2008. The Danes lead the
series 3-1, with all the wins coming during the Brown era.
Columbia, under first-year head coach Jim Engles, is 15th in Division I in fewest turnovers per game. The Lions are led by 6-foot-10 senior forward Luke Petrasek, who averages 14.5 points and 6.8 rebounds per game. Junior guard Nate Hickman is averaging 15.7 points per game, while at the point Mike Smith averages 11.3 points and 3.3 assists per game. John Sico, a sophomore forward from Bethlehem, sees limited action for the Lions.
“Offensively, there are a lot like Holy Cross: They shoot a lot of 3s,” Brown said. “Defensively, they play an NFL prevent defense. They really pack it in.”
This is good news/bad news for the Great Danes, since they are good at defending the 3, but not good at making them. UAlbany lost to Holy Cross 55-49 at home on Nov. 30.
COACH ON THE FLOOR
Brown explained why he took guard David Nichols out of the starting lineup for one game, against St. Francis Brooklyn on Dec. 17: He was sending a message to the sophomore that he wanted him to be more of a leader — “a coach on the floor.”
“He needs to rally the troops,” Brown said Thursday. “The point guard’s job is to run his team.”
Reach Executive Sports Editor Mark McGuire at 395-3105, [email protected] or @MJMcGuire on Twitter.