Danes wipe slate clean, face UMBC in America East opener
ALBANY Following a brilliant performance in Chapter I, the University at Albany basketball team tips off Chapter II of its 2012-13 campaign tonight at 7 against the University of Maryland Baltimore County.
The Great Danes posted an 11-3 record during their non-conference schedule, the best in their Division I era. Now, their focus shifts to the 16-game conference season. First up at SEFCU Arena will be the
UAlbany head coach Will Brown knows his team has exceeded expectations, so far, but pointed out that the games become more meaningful in conference play.
“We’ve got momentum, and we feel good about ourselves,” he said. “I don’t have to spin anything right now. We can ride our momentum. I think we’re ready to go, but we want to keep that edge. I don’t want our guys to get satisfied or comfortable.”
Brown reminded his players that the Great Danes were picked only fourth in the preseason poll.
“We have momentum going into conference play, but I’m not saying we’re the best team in our conference,” he said. “We have to have tunnel vision. Our guys have embraced our [scouting reports] like there’s no tomorrow. We go over the other team’s personnel, and we try to take away their individual strengths.”
According to Brown, there are four parts to every season.
“We have the non-conference schedule, the first eight games of the conference schedule, the second eight games of the conference schedule, where every team knows everything about the rest of the teams in the league, and then the conference tournament,” he said.
The Danes are excited to begin conference play.
“It feels great to be 11-3, but the season is not over,” said senior guard Mike Black. “There is a lot to do in the conference. Everybody is 0-0. We’re confident, but the league schedule is always tough because it’s so balanced. I’m excited.”
“It feels pretty good to be 11-3, to be honest. It’s the best start in program history,” added junior forward Luke Devlin. “It’s a fresh start for everybody. We are in a one-bid conference, so it doesn’t really matter what you do in your non-conference games.”
“I’m looking forward to getting into a rhythm during conference play,” said fifth-year senior Jacob Iati. “I like playing every two or three days. The conference games are the only thing that matters now.
UAlbany is coming off a 57-50 victory over Brown Monday night. The Great Danes scored just 19 points in the opening half, but made 20 of 27 shots from the free-throw line to pull away from the Bears. Iati scored 16 points, while Devlin and Black combined for 29 more to lead the Great Danes. Devlin, struggling through the first 12 games of the season, had his second straight double-figure scoring performance after hitting for 13 points in UAlbany’s game at Navy last Friday night.
The Great Danes have the best non-conference record in the league, and are leading the America East Conference in field-goal percentage (.451), three-point shooting (.401) and rebounding defense (allowing 31.5 rebounds per game).
Individually, Black and Iati are tied for fourth in the league in scoring at 16.2 ppg. Iati tops the conference in three-pointers made (3.7 per game) and is second in three-point shooting percentage (.480). Reserve guard Peter Hooley is third in free-throw percentage (.868).
UMBC, which has lost six straight, is led by Ryan Cook, who is third in the league in scoring at 17 ppg, and ninth in rebounding (6.8 rpg). Chase Plummer is 15th in scoring (11.3 ppg), while Brett Roseboro is tied with Cook in rebounding (6.8 rpg). Freshman Aaron Morgan tops the league in minutes played (36.1 pg). UMBC is 0-7 on the road, while UAlbany is 5-1 at home.
After tonight’s game, the Danes head to Burlington, Vt., on Saturday afternoon to take on the Vermont Catamounts.