ALBANY — Devonte Campbell took two shots in the University at Albany men’s basketball team’s 78-68 win against Kent State.
He made one of them.
The guy he defended? He took 27 and missed 19 of them.
He had plenty of help, a point both Campbell and UAlbany head coach Will Brown pointed out
“But,” Brown said, “there’s not many guys that are just willing to embrace their role like Devonte is willing to embrace his role for the betterment of the team.”
That was Campbell Thursday night at SEFCU Arena, shadowing Kent State junior Jaylin Walker for each of the 36 minutes both players played. Walker, Kent State’s leading scorer at 17.3 points per game heading into Thursday’s contest — still scored 20 points, but it was a 1-on-1 battle Campbell won.
“I thought he did a heck of a job,” Brown said of his team’s junior.
Campbell? He wanted no part of taking any credit for Thursday’s win, which wrapped up a 12-3 non-conference season for the Great Danes.
“I’ve been doing this for a while now, here at the UAlbany program, guarding the best guy on the court,” Campbell said. “So it’s nothing new to me. Walker was another assignment tonight, and we got the dub.”
For UAlbany, fifth-year senior Travis Charles had 19 points and nine rebounds, junior David Nichols added 15 points, and junior Joe Cremo paired 14 points with nine assists.
“He still walks out with 11 points,” Brown said of Campbell, who made 8 of 10 free throws, “but he was such a major factor defensively.”
Here’s Will Brown on some late-game turnovers, able to joke because UAlbany won by 10.— Michael Kelly (@ByMichaelKelly) December 29, 2017
It’s fun and stuff. pic.twitter.com/T0O7L39EcN
UAlbany and Kent State got into halftime tied at 29, but the Great Danes held a comfortable lead for much of the second half. UAlbany took control with a 17-6 run to make it 57-43 with 8:34 to go, and only briefly saw its lead fall below 10 points from there.
“Once we got some stops,” Charles said, “we were able to get on a run.”
The one time Kent State moved within 10 points of UAlbany late in the game, the Great Danes immediately responded. After a pair of free throws brought Kent State within 69-61 with 2:14 left, Nichols swished a 3-pointer to start a quick 5-0 spurt from which Kent State never recovered.
Kent State entered Thursday’s game off a one-point win against Oregon State of the Pac-12 Conference, but head coach Rob Senderoff’s team never led in the final 16:21 against UAlbany and fell to 6-7 on the season.
“They’re a 40-minute team and, for you to beat them, you’re going to have to play hard and play well for 40 minutes,” said Senderoff, who graduated from UAlbany. “Tonight, we played hard, but we didn’t play great and I give them a lot of credit for how they competed.”
In particular, Senderoff credited Campbell for his defense on Walker.
“He’s a tough kid, Campbell,” Senderoff said. “He’s physical and he’s big.”
He’s talented, too, adept at following a defensive game plan. Throughout Thursday’s matchup, Campbell constantly forced Walker left, a task he performed despite navigating through the picks and screens of Kent State’s offense.
“I think Devonte is the best perimeter defender in the America East Conference this year,” Brown said.
UAlbany next plays Wednesday against Hartford, back at SEFCU Arena. That matchup starts America East play for the Great Danes, who Brown thinks still have a ways to go to reach their potential.
UAlbany, Brown said, can be more consistent on defense. It can handle the ball better on offense. To put it simpler than that, the Great Danes can play more efficient basketball.
“Just really not doing anything to hurt ourselves,” Brown said is what he wants from his team in 2018. “If you get beat, you want to get beat just because your opponent played better than you. You don’t want to get beat because you had a lot to do with it.”
Last season, UAlbany got beat in the America East title game. That loss still sticks with Brown’s veteran squad — and the coach reminded his players of that defeat as they now turn their attention to conference play.
“Right now,” Brown said, “we’ll find out how bad that fire is burning in the belly as we get ready for America East Conference play.”
Frederick 1-1 0-0 2, De La Rosa 8-11 2-3 18, Avery 1-7 0-0 2, Walker 8-27 2-4 20, Zabo 3-5 3-4 10, Duling 0-3 0-0 0, Pippen 2-8 0-0 4, Bernstein 1-1 0-0 2, Ridenour 4-5 2-2 10. Totals: 28-68 9-13 68.
Campbell 1-2 8-10 11, Charles 8-12 3-5 19, Stire 1-1 1-2 3, Nichols 4-12 4-5 15, Cremo 4-9 5-6 14, Clark 2-6 2-2 8, Foster 3-4 2-2 8. Totals: 23-46 25-32 78.
Halftime score: UAlbany 29, Kent State 29
Three-point shooting: Kent State 3-20 (Avery 0-3, Walker 2-10, Zabo 1-3, Duling 0-1, Pippen 0-3), UAlbany 7-18 (Campbell 1-2, Nichols 3-7, Cremo 1-4, Clark 2-5). Rebounds: Kent State 35 (De La Rosa 8), UAlbany 32 (Charles, Foster 9). Assists: Kent State 13 (Avery 5), UAlbany 20 (Cremo 9).
Turnovers: Kent State 11, UAlbany 11. Total fouls: Kent State 25, UAlbany 18. Fouled out: Frederick, Zabo. Technicals: Foster. Attendance: 2,579.