The 12th annual Big Purple Growl
is today and it couldn't be a better opponent for the University at Albany.
The last three growls have been sellouts and the Great Danes are 9-2 all-time in Growl games.
This year, the school is calling for a white-out on gameday. The first 1,000 fans will receive a free white t-shirt.
Vermont is coming after losing a 25-point second half lead and dropping a game to Binghamton by two in what coach Mike Lonergan called one of the most "disappointing losses of his career."
The Catamounts will certainly be looking for a win, especially after falling to the Great Danes earlier this season.
The key in my mind will be the health of Anthony Raffa (he scored a team-high 22 points back on Jan. 11 at Patrick Gymnasium), but has been struggling with multiple injuries and the way UAlbany contains Marqus Blakely.
Blakely scored just 11 points in the first matchup, thanks in large part to the defense of Brett Gifford.
At 6-foot-11, Gifford can present a mismatch for the 6-foot-5 Blakely in that he has a tough time going over him.
Blakely averages 15.5 points and 8.6 rebounds, both team-bests.
"Blakely is a tremenous athlete," said UAlbany coach Will Brown on Friday. "He's a tough matchup. He needs to be near the basket to score and Giff is 6-11 and he leans on him and uses his length. Giff's a big kid, but the thing is we can't allow Blakely to play 1-on-1 with Giff because he's a lot quicker. I think we've done a good job of keeping Blakely off-balance. We have to force him to be a passer."
Brown said Will Harris wouldn't practice on Friday because of tendonitis in his knee, especially because UAlbany has another game on Monday at Binghamton.
Harris hoisted up a Division I program record 27 shots on Thursday against Boston University and scored a career-high 28 points.
"I don't know," Harris said when asked if he would look for more shots on Saturday. "It depends on what time of game we've got going."
Harris scored 20 points and grabbed nine rebounds last time out against Vermont, but this is his first experience with the Big Purple Growl.
"The only thing I've heard is it's the most fun game of the year," Harris said. "It's packed, it's loud, it's energetic - just how I like to play."
Senior co-captain Brian Connelly has played before three sellout crowds at the Big Purple Growl and admitted Friday it's a game he's looking forward too.
"I love coming out there in front of all of our fans," Connelly said. "Plus, I like playing Vermont because it's a great game every time and that's kind of what college basketball is all about really."
The last six meetings, the last four of which have been UAlbany wins, have been decided by a combined 23 points or an average of 3.8 points per contest.
"I'm expecting a real competitive one tomorrow," Harris said.
Prediction: UAlbany 76, Vermont 74 (My record is 16-6)
Labels: Brian Connelly, College Basketball, UAlbany, Vermont, Will Brown, Will Harris