UAlbany embracing blank slate heading into America East quarterfinal

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ALBANY, N.Y. – Just one week to the day removed from their last matchup, the University at Albany men’s basketball team, as the seven-seed, will play two-seed Stony Brook on Saturday, with the two teams meeting in the quarterfinal round of the 2020 Hercules Tires America East Men’s Basketball Playoffs.

Game Info
Saturday, March 7 at #2 Stony Brook (7:00 p.m.)
Live Stats | ESPN+ | Championship Central

Leading the Pack

  • Cameron Healy leads the America East in FT% and ranks fifth nationally
  • Excluding the game in which he got hurt, Stony Brook averages 71.8 points per game with Elijah Olaniyi and 57.8 points per game without him
  • UAlbany drained 10 threes at Vermont, after hitting no more than six in the previous four games at a rate of 21.1%
  • UAlbany has lost five-straight for the first time since the 2010-11 season
  • UAlbany has not lost six-straight since the 2009-10 season, when they lost eight-straight (Jan. 19-Feb. 9)
  • UAlbany is 8-10 in the America East quarterfinal round

Scouting Stony Brook
Stony Brook enters the 2020 Hercules Tires America East Playoffs as the two-seed for the second straight year.  The Seawolves have won 10 or more conference games in eight of the last nine seasons.  Stony Brook went 2-0 against UAlbany this season, winning by eight in Stony Brook and by three in Albany.  UAlbany holds a lifetime record of 45-34 against the Seawolves, but Stony Brook has won four of the last five.  The Seawolves now hold a 27-20 record over the Great Danes in the America East era, though the teams are 4-4 against each other in the America East Tournament.  Stony Brook finished the regular season as the America East’s second-best defensive team, while leading the league in blocked shots.  The Seawolves boast All-Conference First Team selection Elijah Olaniyi, Second Team selection Andrew Garcia, and All-Defensive selection Jeff Otchere.  Before returning against UMBC, Olaniyi, the Seawolves’ leading scorer, had missed five-straight games with an injury.  During that stretch, Stony Brook went 3-2, and averaged 57.8 points per game, down from their season average of 69.3.

Last Time vs. Stony Brook
The Great Danes hosted their regular-season home finale last Saturday, against Stony Brook, and held a pregame ceremony to honor five players for the annual Senior Night celebration.  Despite storming back to take a one-point lead at halftime, Stony Brook held off UAlbany to hand the Great Danes their season-high fifth-straight defeat.  Romani Hansen scored a career-high 18 points and grabbed nine rebounds, but it wasn’t enough as Stony Brook outlasted UAlbany for a three-point win in a game in which both teams struggled offensively.  The loss dropped UAlbany into a tie for fifth with UMBC with one game remaining.

Last Time Out
UAlbany wrapped its regular season with a trip to Vermont, falling to the Catamounts by 23, marking their fifth-straight defeat to end the season.  The Great Danes played Vermont close early, but the Catamounts pulled away to lead by 17 at halftime and went on to win by 23 after leading by 20 for most of the second half.  Despite the loss, UAlbany was part of a special moment for Vermont’s Josh Speidel, who, in a prearranged agreement between the two head coaches, took the floor for the first time as a Catamount to score his first career points after suffering a traumatic brain injury in a car accident before arriving on Vermont’s campus.

Around the America East
Entering the final game of the regular season, seeds two through seven in the 2020 Hercules Tires America East Men’s Basketball Playoffs were undetermined.  UAlbany specifically could finish anywhere between fourth and seventh. Vermont and Maine were locked into the first and eighth seeds, respectively, but the remaining six playoff teams needed the final games’ results to determine their seeding.  Hartford was upset at home by Maine, dropping the Hawks to third and solidifying second for Stony Brook, despite the Seawolves losing at UMBC.  The Retrievers jumped New Hampshire, who lost at home to UMass Lowell.  UAlbany’s loss to Vermont, plus the Riverhawks victory over the Wildcats, saw UAlbany fall to seventh.

Saturday’s America East Games

  • #5 New Hampshire at #4 UMBC, 1:00 p.m.
  • #6 UMass Lowell at #3 Hartford, 5:00 p.m.
  • #7 UAlbany at #2 Stony Brook, 7:00 p.m.
  • #8 Maine at #1 Vermont, 7:00 p.m.

Ahmad Clark led UAlbany’s end-of-season award recipients, earning a spot on the America East All-Conference Second Team, improving from his Third-Team selection a year ago.  Freshman Trey Hutcheson was named to the All-Rookie Team, and sophomore Adam Lulka, with his 4.00 GPA, was named to the All-Academic Team.

Conference Wrapup
For the second-straight season, UAlbany finished the conference season 7-9 overall.  The Great Danes, who stormed out to a 3-0 record early, however, stumbled at the end, dropping their last five games to close the conference season and fall from third place to seventh place in the America East standings.  Ahmad Clark led the team in scoring in conference play, averaging 18.9 points per game to go along with 5.2 rebounds per game. 

Overdue Debut
An agreement between the UAlbany head coach Will Brown and Vermont head coach John Becker will result in a unique event to start Tuesday’s regular-season finale between the two teams.  Vermont senior manager, Josh Speidel, will suit up for the Catamounts for the first time in career on Senior Night.  Speidel, who was a heralded recruit out of Indiana, suffered a traumatic brain injury as a result of a car accident in 2015 before he arrived on campus for his freshman year.  Vermont honored his scholarship, and Speidel will take the court, with the starters, for the first time wearing a Vermont uniform.  The agreement between Brown and Becker will see Vermont win the tip and Speidel score the first points of the game, before Vermont will allow UAlbany to score before calling timeout to complete the honoring of Speidel for his resilience and dedication to the Vermont program.

Ahead of their final home game of the 2019-20 regular season, the Great Danes honored five players and one manager as part of their annual Senior Night celebration.  Among the players honored were Ahmad Clark, Sasha French, Nick Fruscio, Romani Hansen, and Kendall Lauderdale.  Also honored was senior team manager Jon Pickett.

Approaching 400
At 14-15 in 2019-20, head coach Will Brown has won 398 games as a head coach, leaving him just two wins away from hitting the 400-win milestone for his career.  After spending three seasons as an assistant coach at Saint Rose, Brown earned his first head coaching position at Sullivan County Community College ahead of the 1998-99 season.  In three years at Sullivan, Brown went 90-10 before being named interim head coach at UAlbany in the 2001-02 season.  Brown was named head coach officially, and since has compiled 308 of his 398 career victories with the Great Danes.

Healy’s Streak Ends
Sophomore guard Cameron Healy started his career hitting a three-pointer in 58-straight games.  He held the third-longest active streak in the country.  On February 22 against New Hampshire, that streak came to an end, and for the first time in his career Healy did not connect from deep in a game. 

Mid-way through the second half against Hartford on February 12, senior point guard Ahmad Clark drove the lane and drew a foul on a contested layup attempt, sinking the bucket to earn an and-one.  Clark’s two points from the layup pushed his career total to 1,000, becoming only the 12th Great Dane in Division I program history to hit the mark, and the first to do so since David Nichols and Joe Cremo did so during the 2017-18 season.  Clark finished the game scoring 24 points to lead all scorers.

Crashing the Boards
Senior forward Romani Hansen played himself into the record books at Hartford, grabbing a single-game program record 18 rebounds against the Hawks.  Hansen, whose previous high was 13 on the season, surpassed the previous record of 15 in a single game held by five players including current men’s basketball Director of Operations Greig Stire.  For Hansen, it was his third-straight double-digit rebounding game, and his fourth in his last five.

Missing Out
Sitting out the game at Hartford with a nagging injury, UAlbany sophomore shooting guard Cameron Healy missed the first game in a Great Dane uniform after starting his career playing in each of his first 56-straight games.  In that time, Healy made 53 starts, averaged a team-leading 15.9 points, and established himself as one of the deadliest shooters in the America East. 

Rookie II
For the second time this season, Trey Hutcheson was named America East Rookie of the Week.  Hutcheson scored 17 points in a 13-point victory against Binghamton, shooting 4-6 from three while adding six rebounds and three blocks.

Sock Out Cancer
Wednesday will be, in conjunction with St. Peter’s Health Partners, UAlbany’s Sock Out Cancer game.  Sock Out Cancer provides basic financial support, including food and transportation, to individuals with cancer.  The organization is recognized by its multicolored socks, which represent the 26 colors of cancer.  The all-volunteer organization establishes partnerships with local hospital foundations who agree to distribute donations pursuant to the Sock Out Cancer mission.  Funds raised at the UAlbany vs. Binghamton game at SEFCU Arena will be equally split between the foundations at Albany Medical Center and St. Peter’s Hospital.  Sock Out Cancer sells each pair of socks for $10, and $5 of every sale goes directly to their cause.

Stepping Stones
After 22 games, UAlbany has accumulated 12 victories, matching their win total from the entire 2018-19 season.  The Great Danes have started conference play 5-2, reversing their fortune from their 2-5 start to America East competition a year ago.  With one game to go to round out their first pass through the America East, the Great Danes are tied for second with Stony Brook and Hartford.

Player of the Week II
Cameron Healy became UAlbany’s second America East Player of the Week of the 2019-20 season after averaging 25.5 points and 7.0 rebounds in a 1-1 week for the Great Danes against UMass Lowell and Hartford.  Healy set the program single-game record with 41 points, surpassing the previous high of 40 held by Gary Holway and David Nichols, as well as the previous high of 39 against an America East opponent in the regular season held by Jamar Wilson.  Additionally, Healy’s 41 points were the most in an America East regular season game in 16 years.

Suits & Sneakers
January 20-26 will feature the 2019-20 season’s Coaches vs. Cancer Suits & Sneakers week. The nationwide event sees basketball coaches wear sneakers with their suits on the sidelines during games in a united effort to raise awareness and funds for cancer research, as well as prevention screening, and early detection.

High Score
On January 22 against UMass Lowell, sophomore guard Cameron Healy scored 41 points, taking over as the all-time single-game leading scorer in program history.  Healy surpassed the previous single-game high of 40, reached twice before in program history, first in 1957 by Gary Holway and most recently in 2017 by David Nichols.  Healy also surpassed Jamar Wilson’s scoring record against an America East opponent in the regular season of 39 in 2003.  The Great Danes collectively scored 101 points against the Riverhawks, their highest total since scoring 102 against Oneonta in 2017, falling just seven points shy of the single-game program record of 108, set first in 2000 against Southern Vermont and again in 2016 against Maine.  Finally, the Danes’ 59 points in the second half set a single-half team scoring record, surpassing the previous high of 57 set in 2017 against Colgate.

To the Wire
Twice this season, UAlbany has clinched victory in the waning seconds of the game.  First, the Great Dane broke through at Columbia to secure their first road victory of the season in their final non-conference game.  UAlbany outscored Columbia 6-1 in the final 12 seconds, including the go-ahead free throw from Cameron Healy with 0.7 seconds remaining to knock off the Lions 67-66.  Next, after forcing a resurgent New Hampshire to overtime, Antonio Rizzuto stole an inbounds pass and scored a layup to give UAlbany the lead with 2.5 seconds to go.  Once again, following another Wildcats’ turnover on an inbounds pass, Healy clinched the game at the line, capping off a 5-1 Great Dane scoring run in the final 12 seconds to win 76-73.

Charity Stripe
On January 11 vs. Maine, the team’s first home game since December 14 and their America East home opener, UAlbany set four records from the free throw line in a 76-70 victory over the Black Bears.  As a team, the Great Danes set single-game program records with 36 free throws made and 47 free throws attempted.  The record was spurred in large part by senior guard Ahmad Clark, who set individual player single-game program records in the same categories, with 18 free throws made and 24 attempted.  The previous team records were set on January 13, 2018 against Maine, when the Danes shot 35-44 from the line.  Clark broke Brian Lillis’ player records of 16-18 from March 8, 2008 against Boston University.  Clark earned so many attempts by drawing 17 fouls during the game, and now ranks in a tie for second in single-game America East history in free throws attempted, with Drexel’s Malik Rose (vs. Vermont, 1/31/93), and tied for third in free throws made with Rose (vs. Hofstra, 2/5/95), Hartford’s Justin Bailey (vs. New Hampshire, 1/27/99), and Vermont’s Clancy Rugg (at Binghamton, 3/2/14).  The America East record for free throws attempted is 28, held by Rose (vs. Hofstra, 2/8/95), and free throws made is 21, held by Vermont’s Eddie Bendon (vs. Drexel, 1/29/94).

Coaches Cure CF
UAlbany’s conference home opener against Maine on January 11 will be the team’s Coaches Cure CF game for this season. UAlbany is one of 14 teams participating in Coaches Cure CF games this year, raising awareness through the initiative for cystic fibrosis, a genetic disorder that affects more than 30,000 people in the United States. The Great Danes, who have gone 5-1 in their Coaches Cure CF games, have raised more than $22,000 for the cause over the last six years. The UAlbany coaching staff will wear sweatsuits on the sideline during the game in solidarity with the initiative.  In the 2020 edition of the game, UAlbany defeated Maine 76-70.

Starting Right
For the first time since the 2015-16 season, the UAlbany men’s basketball program began their America East schedule with a victory.  Following a stretch of three-straight conference-opening defeats, the Great Danes claimed a win at in-state rival Binghamton to start America East play 1-0.  In the previous three seasons, the Danes had lost in 2018-19 to Vermont, 80-51, in 2017-18 to Hartford, 72-64, and in 2016-17 at UMass Lowell, 85-79.  Their last victory was in 2015-16 over UMBC, 73-59.

Non-conference Wrapup
UAlbany finished their 15-game non-conference schedule with a 7-8 record, improving two games on their performance from the previous season.  The non-conference slate was highlighted by a three-games-in-three-days tournament at Quinnipiac, during which the Great Danes won two of three games.  UAlbany went 6-2 at SEFCU Arena during the first half of the season, but struggled on the road, securing their first away victory of the season against their final non-conference opponent, Columbia, with a go-ahead free throw with 0.7 seconds remaining.  Cameron Healy led UAlbany through the first half, averaging 15.6 points per game, followed closely by Ahmad Clark, who averaged 14.6.

Double-Double II
UAlbany’s second double-double of the season came from senior and first-year Great Dane Romani Hansen, who scored 10 points and grabbed 10 rebounds at Monmouth.  Hansen’s production came in just under 24 minutes of court time, his third-highest minute total of the season.  Hansen shot 4-9 from the floor and went even on rebounding, grabbing five offensive and five defensive.

Players of the Week
For the first time in 2019-20, UAlbany pulled in America East weekly awards.  Ahmad Clark and Trey Hutcheson swept the awards following their efforts against Niagara, winning Player and Rookie of the Week honors, respectively.  Clark averaged 18.5 points, 5.5 rebounds, and 4.0 assists in two games, including a 26-point and eight-assist night against Niagara.  Hutcheson scored a career-high 18 points against the Purple Eagles, making his seventh-straight start.

On December 14, 2019, UAlbany head coach Will Brown won his 300th victory as coach of the Great Danes.  In his 19th season, Brown claimed his 300th victory in his 574th game on the sidelines, overseeing his young squad earn a comeback 84-80 victory over visiting Niagara in the team’s final home game of 2019.  Since taking over as the Great Danes’ head coach during the 2001-02 season, Brown has won five America East titles, two America East regular-season titles, one NCAA Tournament victory, and guided his teams to seven 20-win seasons.  Currently in his 19th season at the helm, Brown has averaged more than 16 wins per season, including high-water marks of 24 wins in three separate seasons.

Down but Not Out
The Great Danes won their season-high third-straight game, defeating American University at SEFCU Arena 68-64.  UAlbany trailed by as many as 19 in the first half, before storming back to take the lead in the second.  The Danes fell behind again by as many as nine, before rallying a second time to claim a four-point victory.  Cameron Healy and Antonio Rizzuto scored 18 and 17 points, respectively, with Rizzuto shooting 6-9 from the floor and 5-7 from three.

Bobcats Invitational Wrapup
The UAlbany men’s basketball team arrived at the Bobcats Invitational, where they would play three games in three days at Quinnipiac University, with a 2-2 record.  Leaving the tournament, the Danes were 4-3, holding a winning record for the first time all season after posting consecutive wins, also for the first time this season, to close out their three games.  After falling to tournament host Quinnipiac, the Great Danes received career nights from Kendall Lauderdale and Antonio Rizzuto to defeat Sacred Heart, and then held off a stingy Presbyterian squad to finish the tournament 2-1.

For the first time in his career, sophomore Malachi de Sousa recorded a double-double.  de Sousa scored 10 points and grabbed 10 rebounds in the Great Danes’ second game of the season, against Canisius.  It was the first double-double for a UAlbany player since February 2019 when Cameron Healy went for 31 and 10 in his record-setting performance against Binghamton.

Preseason Recognition
Sophomore guard Cameron Healy earned a spot on the America East Preseason All-Conference team.  After averaging 16.0 points per game last season and setting program records for three-point shooting, Healy earned a spot on the America East All-Conference Third and All-Rookie Teams a year ago, while finishing as runner-up for America East Rookie of the Year.  Additionally, senior guard Ahmad Clark was one of 50 players named to the Lou Henson Award Preseason Watch List, which recognizes the top mid-major player in the country.

Picked Fourth
For the second-consecutive season, the UAlbany men’s basketball team was picked fourth in the America East Preseason Coaches’ Poll, drawing 47 points to fall just behind Stony Brook’s 48 in third.  Vermont was selected unanimously as the league favorite, marking the fourth-straight year the Catamounts have landed atop the preseason poll.  UMBC received the lone remaining first-place vote in second place with 53 points.

Great Danes players set a handful of program records during the 2018-19 season.  Freshman Cameron Healy set or tied single-game and single-season marks for three-pointers made and attempted, and broke Jamar Wilson’s freshman record for total points scored in a season with 512.  Additionally, Ahmad Clark tied the program record for single game assists with 10 at Niagara, and set a Division-I era single-season program record with 63 total steals.

From Deep
The Great Danes embraced the three-pointer last season, setting single-season program records for threes attempted (790) and made (274) in 32 games.  Sophomore Cameron Healy led the charge, taking 251 threes and making 104, including 55 in conference play, all of which were individual single-season program records.

Freshmen become Sophomores
For four of the last five games last season, starting February 21 against Stony Brook and excluding Senior Night on February 27, the Great Danes started freshman at all five positions.  The team started the season with freshmen at three starting spots, Cameron Healy, Adam Lulka, and Brent Hank, and moved to start four freshmen for the first time on December 20 against Manhattan when Antonio Rizzuto made his second career start.  All five freshman who played starting roles at some point last season return to the squad this year, including Healy and Lulka who each started every game last season.

Returning Depth
The Great Danes return nine players from the 2018-19 squad, including all five players who started at the end of the year.  The most prominent departure was Devonte Campbell, who averaged 7.8 points and 4.8 rebounds last year, while earning America East All-Defensive Team accolades for the third time in his career.  UAlbany returns each of its top five scorers, as well as two of its three most prominent bench players.

The North
In August, UAlbany took a week-long trip to play exhibition games against five Canadian universities.  The team played twice in Ottawa and three times in Montréal, ending the trip on a three-game winning streak against McGill University, Université du Québec à Montréal, and Concordia. 

Fighting Fires
During the offseason, sophomore guard Antonio Rizzuto signed up to be a volunteer firefighter with the McKownville Fire Department.  When he’s not otherwise occupied with basketball or school work, Rizzuto answers calls when a situation requires respondents.  Rizzuto is an exterior firefighter, where he retrieves items from the trucks and hooks up the hoses to fire hydrants.

A point of pride for head coach Will Brown, each of his staff members holds a degree from the University at Albany.  Each of his assistant coaches, Jon Iati, Josh Pelletier, and Jerrad Knotts, hold UAlbany degrees, as do his director of basketball operations Greig Stire and video coordinator Shane Hammill.  Brown’s is the only staff in the country that can boast holding degrees from their coaching institution across the board.  Iati, Knotts, and Stire all played for Brown during their collegiate careers.  Further, entering their eighth season together, the Great Danes staff is tied for the second-longest tenured staff in the country.  West Virginia coach Bob Huggins’ staff enters their eighth year together, while Tom Izzo’s staff at Michigan State enters their 10th.

The Great Danes announced three players, Ahmad Clark, Adam Lulka, and Nick Fruscio, to serve as team captains for the 2019-20 season.  Clark and Lulka each enter their second-straight season as team captains, while senior Nick Fruscio was selected by his teammates to serve in his final year.

Decade Recap
The Great Danes finished the 2010’s with a record of 188-148, the second-highest decade wins total in program history behind the 190 victories during the 1980’s.  UAlbany also won 93 America East games in the 2010’s, and averaged nearly 19 wins per season in the last decade.

Next: The winner of Saturday’s game moves on to the semifinal round, to be held Tuesday, March 10.

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