ALBANY — In a 2018-19 season everyone understood was a rebuilding one, the UAlbany men’s basketball program suffered 20 losses.
Few, if any, hurt more than the one in America East Conference play the Great Danes experienced when Maine toppled them on their home court at SEFCU Arena last January, a 66-62 loss to a team that finished the campaign at 5-27 and had last won in Albany in 2011.
“Obviously, you never want to go down on your home court, and last year we let them come in and defeat us on our home turf,” UAlbany redshirt sophomore Brent Hank said Thursday. “So we’re definitely trying to make a statement this year to them, and we won’t let that happen again.”
UAlbany (1-0, 8-8) hosts Maine (0-2, 4-12) at 3 p.m. Saturday. The Great Danes are coming off a win at Binghamton, but the reminder of last year’s home game against Maine served this past week as motivation for a club that should compete to host a conference playoff game or two this year.
“I mean, they [Maine] played well last year. We didn’t,” UAlbany head coach Will Brown said. “We learned from it, and we went up there and we took care of business.”
UAlbany defeated Maine on its home court last February, but the Great Danes want to make sure they leave this weekend with the chance alive to sweep Maine this season. Beyond that, UAlbany wants to build on its strong start to conference play, especially in a league that already only has three teams with undefeated conference marks.
“It’s for the taking right now,” UAlbany redshirt sophomore Cameron Healy said of the America East, “so we need to make a statement and start 2-0.”
Through Thursday’s action, kenpom.com ranked Maine as the No. 344 team in the country. Despite that, Brown — whose team ranks No. 215 — sees Maine as capable of posing problems for the Great Danes.
“They’re dangerous. They’re so big, and they play at one of the slowest tempos in the country, so if they make shots, they put themselves in a position where they’re going to be in just about every game,” Brown said.
He added: “We’ve got to be ready to go. We haven’t played in a week. Haven’t played at home in a long time.”
UAlbany played its last four games on the road, and last played at SEFCU Arena on Dec. 14 when it won against Niagara.
After playing the first 15 games of his college career with his ring and middle fingers on his left hand taped together because of a torn tendon in the ring finger, UAlbany freshman Trey Hutcheson played last weekend against Binghamton with full use of all his fingers.
“It feels good,” said Hutcheson, who scored nine points against the Bearcats. “It bends almost normal now.”
Of course, that means Hutcheson is facing a fresh problem.
“Pretty much, now, every single time I miss a shot in practice, [Brown] tells me to go get my fingers taped again,” Hutcheson said.
Adam Lulka (ankle) returned to UAlbany’s lineup at Binghamton, but tweaked the same ankle during Thursday’s practice. Lulka said he was “not too worried about it,” and expected to play against Maine. He felt some soreness playing at Binghamton after missing nine of UAlbany’s previous 12 games.
“But that’s what I expected and that’s what I have to deal with the rest of the season, but that’s OK,” Lulka said. “I can play through that.”
Senior Ahmad Clark has been dealing recently with a back issue, but he is expected to play against Binghamton.
“Some days,” Brown said, “it’s tighter than others.”
COACHES CURE CYSTIC FIBROSIS GAME
Saturday's contest is the seventh annual Coaches Cure Cystic Fibrosis game. Organized by Brian Fessler, the Coaches Cure CF game will raise awareness and funds for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. All funds raised will benefit the foundation's local chapter. The Great Danes have raised nearly $22,000 for the foundation.
The UAlbany coaching staff will wear sweatsuits during the game as part of the initiative.