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Freshmen leading late-season surge for UAlbany men's basketball

Freshmen leading late-season surge for UAlbany men's basketball

Great Danes top UMBC
Freshmen leading late-season surge for UAlbany men's basketball
Antonio Rizzuto takes a free throw during Saturday's game.
Photographer: Michael Kelly

ALBANY — It’s a sentiment University at Albany men’s basketball head coach Will Brown has expressed several times this season.

After Saturday’s more-lopsided-than-it-looked 84-75 win against UMBC, which came two days after UAlbany upset Stony Brook on the road, it was a fitting time to break out the prediction again.

“This group is going to the NCAA tournament at some point during their four-year career,” Brown said of his all-freshmen starting five. “They are. It’s my job to get them there.”

Brown made the move Thursday to replace junior Ahmad Clark — the team’s second-leading scorer — with freshman Malachi de Sousa in the starting lineup, and the Great Danes responded with back-to-back wins that pushed them up to fifth place in the America East Conference standings. Once 0-5 in league play, UAlbany has rallied to win six of eight games, and just knocked off the league’s second- and third-place teams in a span of approximately 50 hours.

“Do you see my freshmen out there, man?” UAlbany senior Devonte Campbell said. “We’ve got five freshmen starting right now.”

And?

“I’m proud of them,” Campbell said.

On its program’s “Throwback Night,” UAlbany — sorry; for the night, the New York State College for Teachers Pedagogues, the school’s moniker from 1914 to 1962 — showed off the promise of its future.

“Fear the ‘Penguin,’ huh?” said Brown, referencing the “Pedwin the Penguin” school mascot that made a one-night-only return Saturday at SEFCU Arena.

On a night redshirt freshman Cameron Healy set the program’s all-time record for 3-pointers in a season, the Great Danes had five players score at least 13 points in a game that was never particularly competitive. UAlbany made 13 of 27 3s, recorded 20 assists on its 27 made baskets and led by as many as 21 points in the second half.

“Certainly, from a defensive perspective, that was our worst performance, minus maybe [a couple non-conference games],” said UMBC head coach Ryan Odom, who guided his program last March to the first-ever upset of a No. 1 seed by a No. 16 seed in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament. “Those two games were rough, and this one was equally rough for us from a defensive perspective.”

UAlbany (6-7, 11-17) built a 46-28 lead over UMBC (10-4, 18-11) through the opening half, which Healy capped with a buzzer-beating shot from several feet behind the 3-point line.

“Just the way we designed it: Healy from 28 feet,” Brown said. “Guys like that make coaches look smart.”

In scoring a game-high 21 points, Healy made 5 of 6 3s and the only 2-pointer he attempted. With his 95 made 3s, Healy surpassed Matthew Haggarty's 94 makes from the 1999-00 season for the program’s single-season record.

While redshirt freshmen Brent Hank and Adam Lulka had quiet nights, true freshmen de Sousa had 15 points, six rebounds and three blocks, and Antonio Rizzuto scored 13 points.

Off the bench, Campbell scored 13 points and Clark delivered a solid all-around showing. In 25 minutes, Clark contributed 12 points, eight assists and five steals.

“So many ways you can impact a game as a player and he showed that tonight,” Brown said. “He only took five shots.”

UMBC ended the game on a 13-1 run. Before that burst in the final 3:00, UAlbany led by at least 16 points for a stretch of 8:31 against a UMBC squad coming off a win Thursday against first-place Vermont.

Brown said his group was “flat-out embarrassed” with the way it played in its 32-point loss Feb. 13 against UMass Lowell, but credited his players for not quitting on the season at that point. Instead, the Great Danes have won three consecutive games and have three games left in its regular season that will all be played against teams UAlbany beat earlier this season.

“We’re growing up,” Brown said. “Slowly, but surely.”

UMBC

Sherburne 4-9 4-4 13, Lamar 3-7 0-0 6, Gerrity 0-0 0-0 0, Jackson 7-16 0-1 16, Eytle-Rock 3-4 0-0 7, Rosario 1-1 0-0 3, J. Schwietz 1-1 0-0 3, Horvath 1-1 0-0 2, Placer 6-7 0-0 14, S. Schwietz 2-5 0-0 4, Council 2-3 1-2 7. Totals: 30-54 5-7 75.

UALBANY

Hank 0-1 0-0 0, de Sousa 7-11 0-1 15, Lulka 2-2 1-2 5, Rizzuto 4-9 1-2 13, Healy 6-7 4-5 21, Clark 2-5 7-8 12, Miller 0-0 0-0 0, Brooks 0-0 0-0 0, Campbell 4-8 3-3 13, French 0-0 0-0 0, Fruscio 0-1 0-0 0, Lauderdale 2-4 1-1 5. Totals: 27-48 17-22 84.

Halftime score: UAlbany 46, UMBC 28. Three-point shooting: UMBC 10-18, UAlbany 13-27. Rebounds: UMBC 25 (Sherburne 6), UAlbany 25 (de Sousa 6). Assists: UMBC 18 (Sherburne 6), UAlbany 20 (Clark 8). Turnovers: UMBC 12, UAlbany 12. Total fouls: UMBC 20, UAlbany 15. Attendance: 2,306.

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

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