A layup by University of Albany guard, Mike Black, with less than three seconds remaining lifted the Great Danes to a 61-59 victory over the Seawolves in the America East Conference tournament semifinal, Sunday, March 10, thus ending Stony Brook’s hopes for its first appearance in the NCAA Tournament. Albany was hosting the first two rounds of the conference tournament; the Seawolves had routed Binghamton University, 72-49, in the quarterfinal round, Saturday, March 9.
Black’s game winning shot came on a rush after Seawolves’ guard Dave Coley hit a pair of clutch free throws to tie the game at 59. The Seawolves had come back from 10 points down in the final six minutes of regulation to even the score. Down 58-52 with one minute remaining, guard Carson Puriefoy nailed a three-pointer to cut Stony Brook’s deficit to 58-55. Brenton then hit two free throws to close the score to 58-57, before Albany forward Luke Devlin missed one of his two shots from the line to give Coley his opportunity.
Stony Brook got off to a solid start, beginning the game on a 10-3 run. Forward Jameel Warney hit a layup to open scoring. Then, after Warney blocked a shot, forward Scott King nailed a trey to extend the lead to 5-0. A bank shot by guard Dave Coley 3:20 into the game gave Stony Brook a 7-0 lead. After a three-pointer by Black finally put Albany on the board, Seawolves’ guard Anthony Jackson responded with a three-point shot of his own.
Albany quickly tied the game at 10 on a 7-0 run. After a straightaway three-pointer by guard Jacob Iati brought the Great Danes to within 10-5, Black forced a turnover. In transition, he dished off a nifty behind-the-back pass to forward Gary Johnson, who dunked the ball to cut Albany’s deficit to 10-8. An Iati jumper from the right elbow concluded the run.
Though Stony Brook regained its composure and took a 14-12 lead when forward Tommy Brenton threw a successful alley-oop pass to forward Eric McAlister, Albany proved relentless. The Great Danes proceeded to go on an 11-0 run, which gave them a 23-14 lead, as the Seawolves missed seven consecutive shots. A dunk by center John Puk off the rebound to a missed Iati three-point attempt gave Albany a 21-14 lead 5:20 before halftime and highlighted the spurt. A Warney dunk ended Stony Brook’s string of missed shots and cut its deficit to 23-18.
Albany led 28-22 at halftime. Warney led all players in first half scoring with eight points. Iati led Albany with seven points over the first 20 minutes, and Black scored six points. Forward Sam Rowley had a solid all-around half for the Great Dames, putting in four points and collecting six rebounds. Albany shot well in the first half; it hit 10 of its 25 shots from the field (40%) and four of its eight three-point shot attempts (50%). Conversely, the Seawolves struggled shooting, connecting on only eight of their 28 shot attempts in the half (29%).
Coley hit a trey to bring the Seawolves to within 33-31 early in the second half. A subsequent steal and layup by Puriefoy again cut Stony Brook’s deficit to two points, 35-33. Albany then began to pull away again, though. A transition bucket by guard Peter Hooley was followed by a long straightaway three-point shot by Black. Black’s shot gave the Great Danes a 40-33 lead with 9:30 remaining. His two free throws with six minutes remaining afforded Albany its first double digit lead of the game, 49-39.
Black and Puriefoy scored a game-high 16 points apiece. Puriefoy played a solid all-around game off the bench for Stony Brook; he brought down five rebounds and was credited with two steals in addition to his scoring. Iati scored 14 points for the Great Danes, and Rowley contributed five points and 11 boards for the hosts. The Seawolves, who hit 44% of their shot attempts this season, shot only 33% in this game (17-51).
The heartbreaking 61-59 loss breaks Stony Brook’s three-game winning streak over Albany in the America East tournament, which spanned the past three years. Had Stony Brook prevailed, it would have hosted the University of Vermont Catamounts, Saturday, March 16, for the America East Conference title and its automatic NCAA Tournament bid. Instead, for the third time in four seasons, the Seawolves will have to settle for a berth in the National Invitational Tournament (NIT) after winning the America East’s regular season title.