Monday, January 26, 2015

You get a league award! And you get a league award!

The local kids did pretty good this weekend. 

Four different players from three different teams notched basketball league awards after a pretty eventful weekend of hoop-related events. 

Siena women's basketball's Tehreasa Coles and Margot Hetzke swept this week's MAAC awards (the third time this season that the Saints have swept the weekly honors) while Shereesha Richards was named America East Player of the Week for the fourth time this year and Sam Rowley was awarded AE Player of the Week as well. 

So, how did we end up here? 

Let's break 'em down player by player. Here we go. 

Tehresa Coles, Sr. G, MAAC Player of the Week: The Saints captain averaged 19.0 points, 7.0 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 3.5 steals in two games this week. Against Monmouth she shot 6-for-10 from the field while adding a season-high nine rebounds as well. Oh, something else. On Saturday, she became the 26th player in program history to net 1,000 career points, scoring 18 points in the Saints victory over Manhattan. She now stands at 1,001 career points. 

Margot Hetzke, Fr. F, MAAC Rookie of the Week: The freshman averaged a double-double with 13.0 points and 10.0 rebounds to go along with 2.0 blocks. In addition to the stats, Hetzke added a little drama on Thursday night, connecting on the game-winning basket with 9.4 seconds left to lead Siena to a 54-52 win over the Hawks. She has now posted four double-doubles this  season and this latest award marks her seventh Rookie of the Week honor, the third most in conference history. 

Sam Rowley, Sr. F, America East Player of the Week: In a 3-0 week for the Great Danes, the senior captain averaged 16.7 points and eight rebounds and also finished 14-for-15 from the free throw line. On Thursday night Rowley scored a career-high 22 points at Hartford and also tallied yet another double-double at Stony Brook earlier in the week. He's is currently just 10 points away from 1,000 career points. 

Shereesha Richards, Jr, F, America East Player of the Week: Posting numbers that vaguely resembled video-game status, the Great Danes captain averaged almost 30 points in three games this past week. Richards wrapped up the week with a season-high 39 points, the second-highest scoring performance in UAlbany history, shooting 70.8% from the field. The latest award is the 13th weekly honor, tying Richards for second all-time in AEast history. 

The Siena women return to the court on Wednesday morning, while UAlbany men trek to Vermont on Wednesday and the Great Danes women follow up with the Catamounts on Thursday. 

Sunday, January 25, 2015

THE FIRST HALF: UMBC at UAlbany

Basketball is a game of runs and the University at Albany had two of them in the first half of Sunday's America East matchup against UMBC.

The Great Danes went on a pair of offensive tilts in the opening 20 minutes of play to take a 35-22 lead over UMBC.

After the Retrievers opened the game with back-to-back baskets, UAlbany responded with 14 straight points, sparked by six straight from senior forward Sam Rowley. The Danes' captain finished the half with eight points, going 3-for-3 from the field. He is now just 14 points shy of 1,000 on his career.

But, as previously mentioned, basketball is a game of runs and UMBC answered the Danes' outpouring of offense with a little bit of their own. The Retrievers cut the lead to just three with 9:26 left in the half after notching three straight baskets.

So UAlbany answered. Again.

Wheeler Baker, grabbing some early minutes off the bench, went a perfect 4-for-4 from the line while Dallas Ennema capped off a nine-point streak with a deep trey, giving the Danes a 25-11 cushion.

The two teams exchanged baskets in the waning minutes of the period but UAlbany had already pushed ahead enough to go into the break with some breathing room.

Baker finished with a game-high nine points, going 2-for-5 from the field in addition to his four free throws while Cody Joyce led UMBC with eight points. UAlbany shot 50% from the floor and out-scored UMBC 16-to-8 in the paint.

Siena finding motivation in unexpected places; including losses

A 34-point blowout loss should not be inspiration.

A 34-point blowout loss, which Siena sustained to Canisius last weekend, should be demeaning, it should be disappointing, it should, as far as expectations go, set a team back.

Yet, here we are and the Siena men’s basketball team refuses to believe in what should be.

Mike McMahon / The Record

The Saints (5-4, 8-10) notched their first back-to-back MAAC victories of the season on Friday night, defeating inter-state rival Marist 69-60 at the Times Union Center.

This team knows what it is to lose, to be, for all intents and purposes, embarrassed on the basketball court. They’re not willing to let that happen again.

Now, Siena is simply looking to keep the momentum alive, taking on Saint Peter’s (3-6, 9-11) this afternoon with tipoff scheduled for 2 p.m.

“We’re growing up we’ve done some of that at Niagara, some of that here,” Siena coach Jimmy Patsos said. “I think the 34-point loss at Canisius affected us in a good way, in a weird kind of way.”

It’s a quick turnaround for the Saints, who practiced on Saturday evening, but it’s not a situation Siena is entirely unfamiliar with.

This is the fourth time in league play this season the Saints have played two games in three days and while the limited prep time is something no team wants to deal with, it’s also something Siena has been forced to accept.

“We understand we’ve got the most quick turnarounds in the league this year,” sophomore Javion Ogunyemi said. “We’re used to it just playing a day later, so we’ll be all right.”

Facing such a short break between games, the only preparation the Saints truly have time for is to refocus their attention on themselves and what they’ve done successfully over the past two games.

Siena gave up a season-low 60 points to the Red Foxes on Friday night and, in eight wins this season, the Saints are limiting opponents to 40% from the field and an average of 68.1 points per game.

That kind of defensive lockdown has taken a bit of pressure off the Saints’ offense, which has seen five different players average double figures over the last 10 games.

“It’s all about hitting shots,” senior Rob Poole, who played through an ankle sprain on Friday said. “When we go on those droughts, we’re not making shots. Of course defense is good and all that, but you’ve got to make shots. That’s all it is.”

The Peacocks, meanwhile, are coming off a 63-55 loss to Quinnipiac this past Wednesday, averaging just over 62 points in nine conference games.

They’re a slightly more methodical team than Siena, something the Saints hope they can exploit by controlling tempo and pushing the rhythm this afternoon.

“Last time (Saint Peter’s coach) John Dunne had a team like this, he went to the NCAA,” Patsos said. “Senior-laden team with some really good guys, he’s going to play his style. John Dunne and I are different. He’s an excellent, excellent, like pro coach. He’s going to scout us a lot.”

Since the loss to Canisisus, Siena has won both of its games but, more importantly, has found a bit of an emotional motivation

It’s been a long time coming for a team that has battled just about every feasible obstacle it could so far this season.

But now, there are no more excuses. The 34-point blowout has already happened. The injuries have been sustained and fought through and players are returning to the roster.

This is the beginning of the final stretch and the Saints aren’t waiting for anything to happen anymore; they’re going to make it happen.

“I’ve only got 11 more games of my career,” Poole said when asked if he’ll play today. “I might as well go for it.”


Friday, January 23, 2015

UAlbany's Lyle Thompson picked No. 1 overall in Major League Lacrosse lax

Lyle Thompson made even more history for the University at Albany men's lacrosse program on Friday night. 

The reigning co-Tewaaraton Trophy winner was selected first overall by the Florida Launce in the Major League Lacrosse 2015 Collegiate Draft, making him the highest-ever selected player from UAlbany. 

via UAlbany athletics
Thompson joins brother (and Tewaaraton Trophy co-winner) Miles and cousin Ty in the MLL. The two were selected 20th and 28th overall last year by the Rochester Rattlers. Former UAlbany standout Jordan Levine was the lone Great Dane selected in the first round of the draft, picked tenth overall in 2008. 

The selection is the 11th time a UAlbany player has been selected in the MLL Collegiate Draft and, as a program, at least one Great Dane has been picked in eight of the past nine drafts. 

Of course, there's a good reason Thompson went as high as he did. 

He set an NCAA single-season record with 128 points and tied the single-season record with 77 assists. He finished the 2014 season, which saw the Great Danes earn an America East title before falling to Notre Dame in the NCAA Tournament, with 51 goals, 48 ground balls and 15 caused turnovers. 

In addition to being named the Tewaaraton recipient last year, Thompson was named USILA Lt. Raymond J. Enners Award for DI Outstanding Player of the Year, the Lt. Col. J.L. (Jack) Turnbull Award for DI Most Outstanding Attackman, IWLCA First Team All-American, America East Player of the Year and Lacrosse Magazine Person of the Year.

That is only a sampling. 

Thompson will return to the Great Danes roster this season, wrapping up his senior year with the Great Danes. 

THE FIRST HALF: Marist at Siena

Welp. That wasn't pretty.

After the first 20 minutes of play, Siena and Marist head to the locker room all knotted up at 28 points each but it wasn't an easy number to reach.

The team teams combined 23 fouls. Four Siena players have at least two fouls. Four Marist players have two or more fouls.

It definitely wasn't pretty.

After the two teams exchanged few and far between baskets in the opening couple of minutes, Siena went on a bit of a run, jumping out to an 11-10 point lead after Marist went 1-for-11 on consecutive shot attempts.

Then came the whistles. And more whistles. And off-ball fouls. And free throws.

Midway through the half, Marquis Wright and Phillip Lawrence were both whistled for technical fouls after a scuffle broke out in between Willem Brandwijk free throw attempts.

Both teams battled back and forth throughout the waning minutes of the first half, exchanging baskets (and fouls) as the lead changed nine different time sin the opening 20 minutes.

It seemed as if the Red Foxes were going to take a bit of an edge into halftime after T.J. Curry drained an uncontested three after Marist pulled in the offensive board with three seconds left. But a foul call on Wright on the ensuing inbound put the sophomore at the line and tied the game at 28 before the break.

Siena finished the half 7-for-19 from the floor, with the lone shooting highlight coming when Ryan Oliver drained his first three-pointer since December. Marist finished 10-for-29 and 3-for-7 from the line.

Wright and Chavaughn Lewis both finished with eight points for their respective teams, while Siena's Rob Poole, who came off the bench after missing the previous two games, finished with three points on 1-of-2 shooting.

Outpouring of support for Hooley and family continues

On Monday night, the University at Albany men's basketball team made the announcement everyone had been dreading. 

Peter Hooley, the team's leading scorer, had taken an indefinite leave of absence from the Great Danes, returning to Australia to be with his mother, Susan, who has battled colon cancer since 2011. There had been speculation that the junior guard, just four points shy of the 1,000-point career mark, would return back home throughout the season but after UAlbany raised $12,000 to help fund the Hooley Dooley's team in the Undies Run on January 18th, some of the rumors quieted and Hooley seemed refocused on the schedule in front of him; including Monday night's matchup at Stony Brook. 
Hooley celebrates after the Danes won the first-ever
NCAA game in program history last year.

Then came the e-mail. 

There was no timetable set for Hooley's return to the team. There still isn't. But while the Adelaide, Australia native may not be on the court or on the bench for the Great Danes, his battle and, more importantly, his mother's battle is still a driving force behind every game UAlbany plays. 

"We don’t talk about it a ton," UAlbany coach Will Brown said. "What ends up happening is a lot of guys, individually, will come up to me and ask ‘Coach how is really doing?’ They all reach out to him and he’s going to give them all the ‘It’s ok, hanging in there.’ Right now we’re all just trying to be as supportive as possible. I think our guys have done a great job of staying in contact with him. I let my wife handle the family aspect of it and I stay in daily communication with Peter throughout this."

The team found out that Hooley was returning home on Saturday, giving the Danes about 24 hours to come to terms with his absence before traveling to Stony Brook and prepping for a rematch of last year's America East championship game. A game that Hooley thrived in. 

It was not easy. 

"Peter’s such a big presence personality-wise in the locker room and things like that, that I would be lying if I said it didn’t cross my mind," senior Sam Rowley said of whether or not he was concerned that the team's chemistry would change. 

"But I knew, as soon as we had that first practice, everybody was very respectful," he added. "I thought everybody handled it well. On the one hand you want to be respectful and you want to sort address the elephant in the room that Peter’s gone. But on the other hand, we also need to get done what we need to get done. The mood was sort of somber but at the same time everybody sort understood the way it was. There was no negativity associated with it."

Somehow, someway, UAlbany won that game on Monday night, notching a 64-47 victory over the Seawolves and handing Stony Brook its first loss at home this season. 

Then came Hartford. 

It was easy to imagine that the Danes would drop off on Thursday. There was no immediate adrenaline, no initial reaction to Hooley's departure to fuel the metaphorical fires of this basketball game. 

A loss would have made sense. 

Only they didn't lose. 

Sparked by a career-high 22 points from Sam Rowley, the Danes cruised to a 62-53 victory over Hartford. Out of the 80 minutes UAlbany has played over the past two games, the team has led 76.25 minutes. Against the two teams picked above them in the preseason poll. 

"We’ve sort of embraced the challenge of not having our leading scorer," Rowley said. "We’ve used it as motivation too. Every game we play is quite emotional. We play for them and we play for each other."

Hooley's mother is still currently in the hospital, undergoing a new procedure as a means to try and fight the cancer. It has not been easy. 

But the support that the family has received, not only from the UAlbany hoops community, but the entire America East has been overwhelming. 

Binghamton head coach Tommy Dempsey sent Brown a check earlier this week for the Cancer Council of South Australia. On Thursday night, the Hartford men's basketball team presented its own check donation to the Great Danes. The money and the support simply will not stop coming in. 

But mos importantly, the money and the support and Hooley's return home have sparked something else; a brand-new fight. 

Sometimes it's about more than basketball. Sometimes sports are about perseverance and winning at something off the court. Sometimes it's just about life. 

"My wife called me last night on the way home in tears," Brown said. "I guess she had gotten off the phone with Peter’s dad and he told her that this is the most upbeat, energetic, and most enthusiasm that Sue has had in months. It’s since Peter’s been home because Peter’s been spending all his time at the hospital with her. You see that fight coming back with her." 
  

Thursday, January 22, 2015

UAlbany off to best-ever start in America East with victory at Hartford

Sam Rowley has been a bit of a calming influence on the University at Albany men's basketball team over the past couple of days.

He's also been a scoring influence. And a rebounding influence. And, perhaps most importantly, a leader. Less than a week after Peter Hooley announced his indefinite leave of absence from the team, Rowley has been the most consistent player on the Great Danes (6-0, 11-7) roster.

The senior forward, once again, led the Great Danes on the court on Thursday night, notching a career-high 22 points to lead UAlbany to a 62-53 victory at Hartford (4-2, 11-8).

The Danes, currently riding a six-game win streak, moved into sole possession of first place in the America East with the victory, off to their best-ever start in league play.

"“I thought this was another good effort by our guys,” said head coach Will Brown. “We’ve been focusing on getting better defensively and getting more aggressive attacking the paint on offense. We’re making progress on both ends of the ball.”

While Rowley, who went 9-for-13 from the floor with eight rebounds, once again paced the Danes statistically, junior point guard Evan Singletary continues his on-court coming out party.

Singletary did not leave the court for one minute, controlling the tempo of the game and setting up UAlbany on both ends of the court. By the final whistle he finished with eight points, seven rebounds, three assists and two steals.

After an early season spent trying to settle into its defense, UAlbany has finally started to find a rhythm on the defensive side of the ball. The Great Danes allowed Hartford to go just 19-for-52 from the field and the Hawks, a team that thrives on the three-point shot, went 8-for-30 from behind the arc.

It was that consistent defensive pressure that allowed the Danes to control the game's momentum and, most importantly, dictate tempo. UAlbany moved with near precision in the transition game, forcing 11 turnovers and scoring before Hartford even had a chance to turn around.

The Danes, who shot 45.7% from the field, led by as many as 15 points in the second half and was never truly threatened in the final 20 minutes of play.

The most impressive stat though came from the free throw line where the nationally-ranked UAlbany squad converted on 19-of-21 attempts.

UAlbany returns to SEFCU Arena on Sunday afternoon, taking on UMBC in a doubleheader with the women's squad. Tipoff for the game, which will also honor the Danes' Australian players, is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. and will be broadcast on Time Warner Sports Channel.