Danes prepare for Capital City Battle
By Shane Marshall
Get ready for a battle, Albany.
Saturday’s matchup at the Times Union Center is a showdown of two of the hottest men’s basketball programs in the Northeast.
University at Albany enters the week with wins in six of its last seven, and an overtime win over Holy Cross, in which the Great Danes (6-3) shot a season-high 27-for-30 (90 percent) from the free throw line, and tied a season-high with nine 3-pointers.
After averaging just 8.5 points over seven games, UAlbany guard Peter Hooley broke out for a season-high 20 points in the 88-84 overtime triumph over Holy Cross on Saturday. Meanwhile, freshman Joe Cremo has provided depth to the Great Danes’ perimeter, averaging 12 points off the bench for head coach Will Brown’s squad.
Perhaps the biggest surprise from UAlbany has been the play from its big men. Mike Rowley, Greig Stire and Travis Charles all have contributed solid minutes to reinforce Brown saying this group is more talented than a year ago, despite losing America East first-teamer Sam Rowley to graduation.
After improving to 2-3 on the road, UAlbany faces its toughest challenge since opening the season at Kentucky’s Rupp Arena, the Great Danes play Saturday against Siena.
The Saints (5-3) just had a four-game win streak snapped with an 81-80 loss to Cornell, but responded with an 89-54 trouncing of Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference rival Manhattan. Siena has won five of their last six since losing their first two games to national semifinalists Duke and Wisconsin in back-to-back games to open the season.
On the women’s side, UAlbany (6-2) enters after blowing an 11-point halftime lead to Army West Point in a 65-62 road loss.
The Great Danes have two losses to NCAA Tournament quality opponents after suffering their first loss a week ago to fourth-ranked Tennessee. Shereesha Richards and Imani Tate continue to lead the team, while other threats look to emerge to help open up the floor for the duo.
Three-point threat Erin Coughlin had nine points against Army and could be the key on the perimeter for the Great Danes.
After missing the season-opener against Pepperdine, Tiana-Jo Carter had 16 points and 10 rebounds against Rhode Island to help add to Albany’s offensive threat. Regardless, Head Coach Katie Abrahamson-Henderson has stressed since the beginning that the UAlbany offense needs to be productive outside of Richards and Tate in order to remain successful.
The Great Danes will get a matchup with one of Siena’s conference members, Fairfield, prior to Saturday’s Albany Cup at 5 p.m.
Siena (2-5), a WBI finalist in last year’s postseason, seems to be finding its identity after winning its last two games. Led by the sophomore duo of Kollyns Scarborough and Margot Hetzke, the Saints would be looking for its top win of the season in Saturday’s matchup with UAlbany.