ALBANY — It was a forgettable performance.
But it’s one head coach Will Brown wants his UAlbany men’s basketball team to remember.
After winning four of its first five America East Conference games, Saturday’s 62-48 loss to Hartford at SEFCU Arena served as a wake-up call for the Great Danes.
“We’re not good enough, all right, not to bring it every night,” said Brown, whose team never led in Saturday’s game. “We’re not good enough not to share the ball offensively. We’re not good enough to not have each other’s backs defensively. And we’re definitely not good enough to not have our full complement of guys.”
And UAlbany proved all that with its game against Hartford, which allowed UAlbany to hang around well into the second half before fifth-year senior Malik Ellison made sure the Hawks secured a solid road win. A transfer from Pittsburgh and the son of 1989 top overall NBA draft pick Pervis Eillison, Malik Ellison scored the first dozen points in Hartford’s decisive 15-0 run that pushed its lead to 60-43. Overall, Ellison had 31 points and 12 rebounds, while teammate and fellow fifth-year senior Traci Carter secured a program-record nine steals to lead Hartford’s defensive effort.
“Just our pace, and we started getting stops,” Ellison said of what keyed his offensive explosion in the second half, during which he scored 16 consecutive points for Hartford at one point. “I started getting easy buckets in transition and, then, as the game wore down, the pace that we played at on offense, back cuts started getting open and [I was able to get] deep seals in the post.”
“In the first half, we did a good job of not letting [Ellison] post up, not letting him get anything easy,” said UAlbany senior Romani Hansen, who had a game-high 13 rebounds in 26 minutes off the bench. “He had to work for his buckets in the first half.”
Not so much in the game’s final 10 minutes, when Ellison got rolling. Before the 6-foot-6, 215-pound Ellison took over, though, UAlbany had pulled within 45-43 of the Hawks with a 9-2 run.
Then . . . UAlbany (4-2, 11-10) didn’t score for nearly eight minutes, as Hartford (4-2, 11-10) surged to the win.
Three days after scoring a season-high 101 points and seeing redshirt sophomore Cameron Healy produce a single-game program scoring record with 41 points, the Great Danes made 14 of 56 shots and turned the ball over 19 times. UAlbany was 4 of 25 from 3-point territory and only managed nine assists in a game that saw Healy, who shot 2 of 13, lead it with 10 points.
“We made some decisions that weren’t very sound basketball decisions,” Healy said.
UAlbany’s starting backcourt of senior Ahmad Clark and Healy combined to shoot 5 of 25 from the field and committed 14 turnovers. With those two players struggling, UAlbany struggled to initiate its offense. The Great Danes played without sophomore starter Malachi de Sousa (ankle), while freshman starter Trey Hutcheson (back/hips) played 35 minutes, but shot 1 of 8 in scoring four points.
“I probably . . . need to shut Hutcheson down for a week or so because he’s not moving well out there and he’s a really good player,” Brown said. “But he’s a typical nice kid who is not going to come up to me and tell me that he’s hurting or [tell] the trainer that he’s hurting.”
“They’re banged up, and we caught them on a good night,” Hartford head coach John Gallagher said.
All season, UAlbany has dealt with one injury after another. The Great Danes had 11 scholarship players available for Saturday’s game, but even a few of them — Clark, Hutcheson and redshirt sophomore Adam Lulka — aren’t playing at full strength.
“This is the reality of the situation. Very little room for error,” Brown said. “And Ahmad and Cameron need help. They can’t do everything. So guys have to help them.”
Brown added: “With that being said, Ahmad and Cameron, we need to be able to rely on them for consistency, decision-making and shot selection.”
UAlbany next plays Wednesday at UMBC, then will host Vermont a few days later.
“Hartford did a nice job tonight. I thought Ellison was outstanding, and this was one of those nights that we haven’t had in a while,” Brown said. “We just played poorly, especially offensively.”
Marks 5-10 0-0 12, Stafl 3-7 0-1 8, Ellison 13-20 5-8 31, Flowers 1-7 0-0 3, Carter 1-8 0-0 3, Colovic 0-0 0-0 0, Mitchell 0-1 0-0 0, Henry 2-3 0-0 5, Boxus 0-1 0-0 0. Totals: 25-57 5-9 62.
Hank 1-3 2-2 4, Rizzuto 3-11 0-0 9, Hutcheson 1-8 2-2 4, Clark 3-12 2-2 8, Healy 2-13 5-5 10, Lulka 0-0 0-0 0, Hansen 2-6 3-4 7, Lauderdale 2-3 2-2 6. Totals: 14-56 16-17 62.
Halftime score: Hartford 31, UAlbany 27. Three-point shooting: Hartford 7-21 (Marks 2-4, Stafl 2-5, Ellison 0-2, Flowers 1-3, Carter 1-4, Mitchell 0-1, Henry 1-1, Boxus 0-1) UAlbany 4-25 (Rizzuto 3-9, Hutcheson 0-4, Clark 0-3, Healy 1-8, Hansen 0-1). Rebounds: Hartford 32 (Ellison 12), UAlbany 39 (Hansen 13). Assists: Hartford 18 (Marks 6), UAlbany 9 (Clark 5). Turnovers: Hartford 13, UAlbany 19. Total fouls: Hartford 17, UAlbany 17. Fouled out: None. Technicals: Hartford coach. Attendance: 2,402.