ALBANY — It’s a good start.
Not a great one.
That was University at Albany men’s basketball junior Devonte Campbell’s take Tuesday as the Great Danes continued preparing for Wednesday’s 7 p.m. meeting against Bryant at SEFCU Arena.
“I can’t give ourselves an A because we took a loss,” Campbell said, “but I’d put ourselves at a B+ or a B, anywhere ranging from the 85-to-88 area, to be specific.”
That’s probably right about where UAlbany head coach Will Brown would land, too, as his team readies to take part in the first of four games the Gotham Classic provides his program. Brown can’t argue with the results his team has produced or the way it’s scored the ball, but he’s a defense-first, defense-second kind of coach who doesn’t like to see his team in the bottom third nationally in opponents’ field goal percentage.
“I thought we’d be better defensively at this point,” Brown said. “That’s the one thing I’m disappointed in overall.”
While UAlbany has scored 82.4 points per game on 49.3 percent shooting — the Great Danes rank within the top-20 percent in both categories nationally — it’s often been content to play along with inferior foes, like it did against Columbia last weekend. UAlbany won that game 86-82, but the Great Danes outscored their opponent 29-26 in the first half before a 57-56 second half.
“I just don’t think we’ve been consistent,” Brown said. “Our best players are really good, but I don’t think they’re bringing the consistent energy that we need defensively — meaning Joe [Cremo] and David [Nichols]. They’re both outstanding players, but we need more [defensively] from those two, specifically.”
Cremo and Nichols, UAlbany’s junior backcourt, scored 54 points in that win. That’s great — but Brown thinks those two players can make a similar impact on the defensive end of the floor.
“That’s why I have no problem saying we need more from them,” Brown said.
In Wednesday’s game, UAlbany gets a chance to get right. Bryant is 1-7 and one of the worst offensive teams in the country, shooting 39.7 percent from the field.
Lately, Brown said his team has scrambled too much on defense. He pointed to that habit as why his team, which has dominated the glass throughout the season, barely out-rebounded Columbia. Playing sound defense, Brown said, should get the Great Danes back to limiting teams to one shot the way they have most of this season.
“We need to make it a priority,” Brown said.
“It’s going to sneak up on us,” Brown said, “and we’re going to get a kick in the rear end if our defense doesn’t get better.”