ALBANY — All season, they’ve battled.
Now, with only one game left in the Great Danes’ regular season, the UAlbany men’s basketball team is struggling to get to the finish line in what’s become an uphill race.
“I think we’ve hit the wall a little bit,” UAlbany head coach Will Brown said after his team’s 52-49 America East Conference loss Saturday against Stony Brook, a senior-night defeat for the Great Danes at SEFCU Arena.
If that’s the case, it’s hard to blame them, given all the injuries and illnesses that the Great Danes have dealt with this season. The latest ones for UAlbany to contend with saw redshirt sophomore Adam Lulka miss Saturday’s game because he’s in concussion protocol, while redshirt sophomore Cameron Healy — who already isn’t 100% because of a hip/back issue that’s lingered throughout conference play — played against the Seawolves despite experiencing flu-like symptoms.
In suffering a fourth-consecutive defeat that dropped UAlbany (7-8, 14-16) into a tie for fifth place with UMBC, though, the Great Danes played well enough against Stony Brook (9-5, 18-11) to give themselves a chance late in the game. But tied at 45, Healy missed a solid look at a 3-pointer, then the Great Danes made a mistake with their defensive rotation on the ensuing possession that left Stony Brook sophomore Miles Latimer — who hadn’t made a shot in the game’s first 38 minutes — open to bury a go-ahead 3 with a little more than a minute to go.
“It was a poor execution,” Brown said of the play, which saw senior Ahmad Clark mistakenly help off Latimer and Healy unable to get out to the Stony Brook sophomore in time to bother the shot.
From there, Clark missed an off-the-dribble 3, and that was UAlbany’s final possession of the game trailing by three or fewer points until senior Romani Hansen rebounded a missed Stony Brook free throw with a second to play.
Clark and Hansen carried UAlbany on senior night, and that pair started the game with seniors Nick Fruscio — the program’s four-year, walk-on guard — and Kendall Lauderdale, plus redshirt junior Sasha French, who is expected to graduate and depart the program after this season. Hansen had 18 points and nine rebounds, while Clark had 14 points, eight rebounds and six assists in what could be the Great Danes’ final home game of the season unless they’re able to move up the standings with a win Tuesday at Vermont.
Neither team led by more than eight points in a game that included eight lead changes and six ties.
“Two really evenly matched teams,” Stony Brook head coach Geno Ford said. “Neither team could get any separation. I thought their defense was terrific. I thought our defense was terrific — and it came down to just making that one shot. Miles hit a huge 3 for us that was the separator.”
That Latimer’s 3 came after a Healy miss wasn’t lost on Ford. Since aggravating his hip/back injury in a game against Binghamton to the point that he needed to miss UAlbany’s next game, Healy has made 8 of 42 shots overall and 4 of 27 3-point attempts since returning to the team’s lineup.
“Albany’s had some real . . . bad breaks,” said Ford, whose club received a team-high 16 points from redshirt junior Makale Foreman who made 4 of 5 free throws in the final 30 seconds to seal the win. “Cam Healy, I know, is dealing with a nagging thing. That kid is . . . as good or better than every guard in the league, [but] he doesn’t quite have his pop. Physically, he’s not jumping as quick and as well as what he normally does. I give the kid credit because he’s playing through pain.”
All season, Brown repeatedly said his club was operating with “very little room for error” because of how much it needed Clark and Healy to score big each night, and Healy — who had three points on 1 of 8 shooting against Stony Brook — hasn’t played like himself for weeks as he’s tried to play through his injury.
“Honestly, I feel for him,” Brown said. “I haven’t seen anything like this in my entire coaching career, so you feel for him.”
As a team, UAlbany made 20 of 56 shots on a night that saw the Great Danes only commit six turnovers.
“I thought we competed a lot tonight defensively,” Clark said. “Still struggling a little bit shooting-wise, but definitely some positives from tonight. We’re ready for the next game. Just looking forward now.”
That’s all the Great Danes can do, and the opportunity is there for UAlbany to gain momentum heading into the playoffs if it’s able to put together a great effort at league-leading Vermont.
“Just keep pushing,” Clark said of the team’s aim. “Stay positive. We’re not going to give up. The season’s not over.”
Otchere 1-2 1-2 3, Foreman 5-16 4-5 16, Stephenson-Moore 1-7 2-2 5, Pierre Philippe 1-4 1-2 3, Garcia 6-10 0-0 13, Gueye 4-8 0-0 9, Latimer 1-3 0-0 3, McKenzie 0-0 0-0 0, Ochefu 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 19-50 8-11 52.
Hansen 7-9 1-2 18, French 1-3 0-0 2, Lauderdale 3-4 1-2 7, Clark 6-17 2-2 14, Fruscio 0-1 0-0 0, Hutcheson 0-4 0-0 0, Rizzuto 2-7 0-0 7, de Sousa 0-3 0-0 0, Hank 0-0 0-0 0, Healy 1-8 0-0 3. Totals: 20-56 4-6 49.
Halftime score: UAlbany 23, Stony Brook 2. Three-point shooting: Stony Brook 6-21 (Foreman 2-7, Stephenson-Moore 1-5, Pierre Philippe 0-1, Gracia 1-3, Gueye 1-2, Latimer 1-3), UAlbany 5-22 (Hansen 3-3, Clark 0-3, Fruscio 0-1. Hutcheson 0-2, Rizzuto 1-5, de Sousa 0-3, Healy 1-5). Rebounds: Stony Brook 34 (Garcia 10), UAlbany 30 (Hansen 9). Assists: Stony Brook 14 (Garcia 5), UAlbany 10 (Clark 6). Turnovers: Stony Brook 9, UAlbany 6. Total fouls: Stony Brook 10, UAlbany 15. Attendance: 2,564.