BURLINGTON, Vt. — Utilizing clutch free-throw shooting down the stretch, the University at
Albany completed its first regular-season sweep over Vermont with a 64-61 victory Monday night at raucous Patrick Gymnasium.
Back-to-back three-pointers by Jon Iati and Brent Wilson put the Great Danes in front for good, 58-55, with 2:24 left in the game.
Marqus Blakely then made one of two foul shots for the Catamounts (7-4, 12-11) before Tim Ambrose converted a driving layup to give the Great Danes a 60-56 lead with 1:26 left.
Blakely, the America East Conference’s leading scorer and a tough player to guard in the low post, made two more foul shots with 1:16 left to draw the Catamounts within two, 60-58, with 1:16 left.
Albany’s inbound pass was
stolen by Vermont with 52 seconds left, and the Catamounts tried to set up a play to tie the game. But Kyle Cieplicki missed a three-pointer with 25 seconds remaining. Vermont grabbed the rebound and called timeout with 22.3 to go.
Mike Trimboli misfired on a three-pointer, and Brian Lillis grabbed the rebound. Lillis made both foul shots with 12.8 seconds left to just about clinch the game, but on the ensuing play, Lillis fouled out trying to block Cieplicki’s three-point shot. Cieplicki sank three free throws with 7.2 seconds left, and the Great Danes called a timeout.
Iati then drilled the game-clinching foul shots with 5.6 seconds
remaining. Vermont called one last timeout with 2.6 seconds to go, but Cieplicki’s three-pointer was well short of the rim as time expired.
“You’re looking at the Jekyll and Hyde of the America East Conference,” said Albany head coach Will Brown. “When we play with the passion that we played with tonight, we’re as good as any team in the league. We were disappointed with the way we played against Hartford the other day at home, but I knew this would be a battle of the three best players in the league.”
Brown was asked how this win rated with the other big victories this year for the Great Danes.
“It’s just another win, but it’s a big win because we swept the
series from them,” he said. “There are a lot of good teams in this league that have peaked already. I think we are peaking right now.”
The Great Danes held Blakely and Trimboli to just six points combined in the first half. They ended up with 18 and 15 points, respectively, but they needed 30 shots to get those points.
“Coach did a great job of coming up with a good game plan for this game,” said Lillis. “We knew that defense has been our Achilles’ heel, but we played good defense tonight.”
Brown said he was particularly concerned about shutting down the athletic Blakely.
“We tried to get our biggest guys we had on him,” he said. “The tough thing is he’s only 6-foot-5, but he’s the best athlete we’ve played against all year.”
Ambrose led the Great Danes
(7-5 America East Conference, 12-12 overall) with 19 points. Lillis and Iati finished with 16 points each. Lillis also grabbed eight rebounds, and recorded six assists. Brian Connelly led the Great Danes with nine rebounds. The Danes made 16 of 19 foul shots.
Blakely finished with 18 points and 16 rebounds, including seven on the offensive end. Trimboli chipped in with 15 points.
Both teams struggled in the first half. Albany shot just 34.5 percent from the floor, but the Catamounts only shot 30.8 percent. Vermont stayed close by making five of eight shots from the line. Albany was only one of two.
Ambrose led Albany with nine points, while Chad Powlovich scored six in the first 20 minutes for the Catamounts.
Albany led by as many as six,
40-34, in the second half when Lillis made one of two free throws with 11:35 to go.
But then Trimboli began to heat up. He converted a steal into a three-point play, and scored on a putback to pull the Cats within three, 42-39.
An 8-0 run, fueled by Blakely’s five points, pushed Vermont on top, 49-46, with 4:58 left.
But Albany came back on a pair of foul shots by Iati, a reverse slam by Lillis and two more free throws from Lillis.
Trimboli and Blakely combined for four points to put Vermont ahead, 55-2, but that was when Iati and Wilson hit back-to-back treys to put Albany in front for good.
Iati became the program’s
career leader last week with his 121st
game played. He broke Jamar Wilson’s record of 120 games. Iati entered Monday night’s game with 1,047 career points, 26th on Albany‘s all-time list.
Hastings 0-3 0-0 0, Lillis 4-14 5-6 13, Connelly 3-7 0-0 6, Wilson 2-5 0-0 6, Turley 2-3
0-0 4, Martin 0-0 0-0 0, Iati 2-6 7-8 13, Ambrose 8-14 3-4 19, Covington 0-0 0-0 0, Gifford 1-1 1-1 3. Totals: 22-53 16-19 64.
Trimboli 5-15 3-3 15, Cieplicki 1-7 3-3 6, Blakely 5-15 8-13 18, McCrory 1-4 4-6 6, Fjeld 3-4 0-0 6, Accaoui 0-0 0-0 0, Vier 0-3 0-0 0, Powlovich 3-6 2-2 8, Dean 0-0 0-0 0, McIntosh 1-3 0-2 2, Shields 0-0 0-0 0, Kissel 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 19-57 20-29 61.
Halftime: Albany 22, Vermont 22. Three-point goals: Albany 4-12 (Hastings 0-2, Connelly 0-1, Wilson 2-5, Iati 2-4); Vermont 3-14 (Trimboli 2-5, Cieplicki 1-6, Vier 0-2, McIntosh 0-1). Rebounds: Albany 39 (Connelly 9), Vermont 37 (Blakely 16). Assists: Albany 10 (Lillis 6), Vermont 10 (Trimboli 3, Vier 3). Personal fouls: Albany 25, Vermont 17. Fouled out: Lillis. Technical fouls: Vermont bench. Officials: Paul Faia, Ray Perone, Sean Hull. Attendance: 2,626.
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