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UAlbany men's basketball needs to improve defense

UAlbany men's basketball needs to improve defense

News, notes on the Great Danes
UAlbany men's basketball needs to improve defense
UAlbany plays Monmouth Saturday.
Photographer: Peter R. Barber

ALBANY — What did the University at Albany men’s basketball team find out during its week in Northern Ireland?

Well, for starters, that the coaches and players enjoyed getting the chance together to travel somewhere new and learn about a different culture.

“And,” UAlbany head coach Will Brown said after Wednesday’s practice at SEFCU Arena, “that we don’t play defense very well.”

The Great Danes found that out — well, perhaps, they had that confirmed — with back-to-back losses last week in Belfast against LIU Brooklyn and Dartmouth in which UAlbany allowed an average of 85.5 points per game. LIU Brooklyn and Dartmouth combined to drain 28 3-pointers against UAlbany, and the Great Danes allowed opponents to shoot 55.7 percent from the field in their final three halves of play in Northern Ireland.

Successful off-the-dribble penetration against UAlbany’s defense, Brown said, created easy catch-and-shoot opportunities.

“We’re getting beat too easy off the dribble and it’s forcing us into rotations and scramble situations,” Brown said, “and the more you have to scramble, the more you have to rotate, the less successful your defense is going to be.”

UAlbany, which is 2-6, takes on Monmouth on Saturday at SEFCU Arena. Improving their defense, Brown said, is the top focus for the Great Danes.

“We’re just nowhere near where we need to be defensively right now,” Brown said.

Rizzuto back practicing

His left knee, which he had surgery on a few months ago, is strong.

His cracked sternum is no longer an issue.

And his time spent dealing with pneumonia is complete.

“I’m good,” UAlbany freshman Antonio Rizzuto said. “I’m back.”

Rizzuto practiced Wednesday with the Great Danes in a limited capacity and could practice in full-contact settings as soon as Thursday.

“I’ve been doing everything I can to get back,” Rizzuto said.

Even if he is fully cleared, Brown said it is still possible Rizzuto won’t play Saturday as he works back from his variety of ailments.

“He hasn’t worn the uniform yet, so I want to make sure I put him in position to be successful,” Brown said.

But Rizzuto and sophomore Philip Flory, the latter of whom is expected back in a few weeks after dealing with a foot injury, remain slotted to receive immediate minutes once they are able to play. It’s possible one of those two guards could join the starting lineup, too, and that UAlbany will play even more small-ball lineups than it already has this season.

“Once Rizzuto and Flory are both fully cleared and comfortable, the minute allocation, rotation and potential starting lineup will change, for sure,” Brown said.

Rizzuto practiced most of the preseason after offseason surgery on his left knee. He cracked his sternum, though, toward the end of the preseason and was ready to get back from that just as he caught pneumonia.

Having one health issue after another, Rizzuto said, is something totally new for the freshman.

“Never been hurt,” Rizzuto said. “So it was just some bad luck.”

Award winner

Earlier this week, UAlbany redshirt freshman Cameron Healy picked up his first America East Rookie of the Week honor after averaging 23.0 points per game in UAlbany’s two-game trip to Northern Ireland.

After Wednesday’s practice, Healy sounded like he would have traded the award for a couple wins in Belfast.

“We just haven’t closed out games,” Healy said. “Honestly, that’s our biggest problem right now. As Coach has said, we haven’t figured out how to win yet.”

Healy, though, has done his part to help keep UAlbany competitive. Healy has scored 20 or more points in four games this season.

Reach Michael Kelly at [email protected] or @ByMichaelKelly on Twitter.

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