ALBANY — The Great Danes cannot afford to slip up if they want to move up.
Starting with Sunday’s 1 p.m. game in Bangor vs. Maine, the UAlbany men’s basketball team’s next four games all come against squads it beat during its first trip through the America East Conference schedule that left the Great Danes in fourth place. In all likelihood, if UAlbany wants to earn better than the No. 4 seed for its conference tournament, the Great Danes need to take care of business at Maine, vs. UMBC and New Hampshire and at UMass Lowell.
“You have to attack every game with the same mindset,” UAlbany sophomore Malachi de Sousa said. “You have to play the top teams in the league the same way you go up against the bottom teams. You have to attack with that mindset.”
Coming off a loss at Hartford, UAlbany (6-4, 13-12) heads to face a Maine (3-8, 7-18) squad it defeated 76-70 earlier this season. The availability of second-leading scorer Cameron Healy (hip/back) is one head coach Will Brown labeled a game-time decision; already, the redshirt sophomore missed the Great Danes’ last game, in which they made 23 of 66 shots in scoring 60 points, their sixth-lowest output of the season.
“We had some lineups out there, at times [at Hartford], that weren’t the best lineups offensively, but those lineups were pretty good for us defensively,” Brown said. “We just didn’t have enough offensive firepower.”
Later, Brown added: “We didn’t have a lot of room for error with Cameron, so we definitely don’t have a lot of room for error without him.”
And UAlbany, which entered the weekend’s action in fourth place in the conference and will leave it in third with a win at Maine, doesn’t have much room for error in attempting to push up the standings. After UAlbany plays the four teams it has already defeated and that are below it in the standings, a pair of games — vs. Stony Brook and at Vermont — remain against teams above the Great Danes that have already beaten them this season.
During this upcoming stretch, redshirt sophomore Adam Lulka said it’s extra important for the Great Danes to execute. Attention to detail, no matter how small, is crucial.
“It’s hard to beat a team twice in a row, three times in a row,” Lulka said. “So when it comes to playing teams for a second time, you have to execute the scout perfectly. You can’t make mistakes that hurt yourself. If you do things that hurt yourself against someone you already beat, that gives them the chance to beat you.”
So far in the second half of its conference season, UAlbany has completed a sweep of Binghamton and failed to earn a split with Hartford. The Great Danes remain two games clear of fifth-place UMBC in the loss column, but de Sousa said UAlbany knows starting up a winning streak is crucial at Maine, which has lost five of its last six games.
“If we sit here and attack it with a laid-back mindset, we could not even have a home playoff game,” de Sousa said of the team’s upcoming stretch. “A big goal of ours is to secure a home playoff game, so it’s very important we all lock in and stay focused on the task at hand.”