ALBANY — It’s not exactly ideal.
But, regardless, the UAlbany men’s basketball team needs to be ready to tip at noon Saturday at Maine after a bus ride Friday of approximately seven hours.
“This tests you,” UAlbany head coach Will Brown said, “and your team needs to be focused and respond.”
Maine (1-2, 4-14) and UAlbany (1-2, 13-5) are tied near the bottom of the America East standings, but that’s likely to change quick. The Great Danes swept Maine last season and have won nine of the last 10 games between the teams, while UAlbany’s already received its wakeup call with its 0-2 America East start that it answered with a 13-point win Wednesday against Stony Brook.
But Saturday’s game presents a unique challenge for the Great Danes, a club that’s been prone to slow starts this season. The team practiced earlier than usual Friday so it could get to its hotel in Maine at a decent hour, but the Great Danes won’t have a shootaround Saturday because of the game’s early start time. The team’s preparation, Brown said, needs to be taken care of well in advance of tip time.
“You’ve got to make sure your team is rested, [that] they’re fresh,” Brown said. “This is the longest trip for us and then we have to turn around and play Binghamton, as well.”
That game at Binghamton is Monday — and not a focus yet for the Great Danes, who junior David Nichols said are not looking past Maine.
“We’ve got to be prepared,” Nichols said. “We need to have a good warmup.”
Changing it up
UAlbany’s already in a better spot to have a solid warmup before Saturday’s game. Prior to Wednesday’s game against Stony Brook, the Great Danes added some new drills to its routine.
“We wanted to get our feet moving more,” UAlbany junior Devonte Campbell said.
After the Great Danes’ 0-2 start in league play, UAlbany looked to shake things up a bit. Typically, the Great Danes had simply worked through layup lines, but added a three-man weave shooting drill and defensive slides into its routine before Wednesday’s bounce-back win.
“We felt like we were getting stagnant just doing layups for so long,” Nichols said.
The season-long struggle for UAlbany has been its inability to add depth to its rotation.
Wednesday against Stony Brook, though, Brown committed to getting sophomore Ahmad Clark at least 16 minutes — and Clark rewarded Brown with 20 minutes of steady play in which the guard had five points, five assists and three rebounds.
“He’s talented,” Brown said, “and I need to get him more minutes.”
Clark is generally UAlbany’s first guard off the bench, a tough spot to be in with juniors Joe Cremo and Nichols ahead of him. Against Stony Brook, Brown gave Clark some rare minutes playing with Cremo and Nichols, during which Clark served as the team’s primary ball-handler.
“When we do [that], it also takes some pressure off David, where he doesn’t have to handle the ball and try to score the ball,” Brown said.
When UAlbany went to its three-guard lineup, that meant Campbell was off the floor. That’s a look Brown said the Great Danes could use more going forward against teams — like Stony Brook — which don’t have a perimeter scoring threat potent enough to require Campbell, UAlbany’s best defender, on the floor at all times.
“Might not be able to do it against a UMBC because we need [Campbell] on Jairus Lyles as much as possible,” said Brown, referencing UMBC’s 20-points-per-game scorer. “We can probably do it against most teams in our league, but it is more of a situational thing.”