Brian Lillis’ second-half heroics were wasted as the University at Albany Great Danes came up short in overtime against the America East Conference-leading University of Maryland Baltimore County Wednesday night at SEFCU Arena.
Lillis, who scored 18 of his 20 points in the second half, sank a three-pointer with 0.3 seconds left to send the game into the extra period, but the Retrievers were never headed in the final five minutes en route to an 81-77 victory.
Fifth-year senior guard Jon Iati kept the Danes close in the extra session with seven straight points. He netted a three with 3:44 remaining to pull the Danes within 72-71, and after the Retrievers extended their lead to 76-71 with 1:17 left, Iati connected for another trey and completed the four-point play after being fouled by Frank McKnight.
Although the Great Danes outrebounded UMBC, 50-34, the Retrievers grabbed several key caroms when they needed them the most. Ray Barbosa, who poured in a game-high 27 points, missed a three-pointer with 28 seconds left, but Darryl Proctor collected the offensive rebound and made the layup to give UMBC a 78-75 lead.
Albany’s Jerel Hastings missed a wide-open layup with 17 seconds on the clock, and quickly fouled Justin Fry, who made a pair of free throws to extend the UMBC advantage to 80-75 with 15.8 seconds left.
After Iati missed a trey, Hastings tipped in the rebound with 7.5 seconds left to get the Danes within three, but Fry clinched the game by making one of two free throws.
UMBC, 11-2 in the league and 19-7
overall, needs only one win or a Hartford loss to clinch the regular-season title. Albany, the two-time defending conference champion, slid to 8-6 and 13-13.
“That was a tremendous character win,” said UMBC head coach Randy Monroe, whose team has won seven straight games. “I’m proud of our guys. When Lillis hit that three-pointer, the shot goes and the place goes crazy. It takes the wind out of our sails. But I’m proud of the way our guys regrouped. We found ways to win down the stretch.”
Albany head coach Will Brown was not critical of his team after the heartbreaking loss.
“I’m proud of the way we competed in the second half,” he said. “In the first half, we were a little stagnant, but in the second half, our focus was much better. We wanted to attack from the inside out, and that’s what we did.
“We missed a lot of easy shots. But I think the biggest play of the game was that offensive rebound and score by Proctor. He made a great play. They made plays when it mattered the most. I thought it was a great game.”
Lillis, who also had eight rebounds and five assists, knew exactly what he needed to do when the Great Danes got the ball back trailing, 68-65, with 3.3 seconds left in regulation.
“I knew how much time was left. I just wanted to make sure my feet were behind the three-point line, and I let the shot go. I thought we would win after that. We learned that we can beat this team, but we’ve got to play 40 minutes, not 20 minutes.”
Iati agreed that the momentum should have turned in Albany’s
favor after Lillis’ key shot.
“When we needed to get the big stops or make the big plays or grab the big rebounds down the stretch, we didn’t do it,” he said. “We thought we won the game when Brian hit that shot. We got all happy and started screaming. But that hurt us, because all of a sudden, UMBC hits the first two shots in overtime, and we’re behind again.”
Albany, which shot only 32.1 percent in the first half, warmed up in the second half by shooting 51.5 percent. Brent Wilson, Hastings and Tim Ambrose each finished with 10 points for the Danes.
Spadafora 4-10 0-1 9, Fry 2-3 3-4 7, Proctor 11-18 0-1 22, Greene 3-8 0-0 7, Barbosa 8-17 5-6 27, McKnight 0-0 1-2 1, Johnson 3-8 2-4 8. Totals: 31-64 11-18 81.
Connelly 1-7 2-2 4, Wilson 4-10 0-0 10, Turley 3-7 1-1 7, Hastings 5-9 0-0 10, Lillis 8-16 3-5 20, Martin 2-5 0-0 5, Iati 2-5 3-3 9, Ambrose 3-10 3-4 10, Covington 1-1 0-0 2, Gifford 0-1 0-0 0. Totals: 29-71 12-15 77.
Halftime: UMBC 32-24. Three-point goals: UMBC 8-24 (Spadafora 1-4, Greene 1-4, Barbosa 6-15, Johnson 0-1), Albany 7-20 (Wilson 2-7, Hastings 0-1, Lillis 1-2, Martin 1-3, Iati 2-5, Ambrose 1-2). Rebounds: UMBC 34 (Proctor 10), Albany 50 (Wilson 9, Ambrose 9). Assists: UMBC 16 (Proctor 4, Greene 4, Johnson 4), Albany 14 (Lillis 5). Personal fouls: UMBC 14, Albany 17. Fouled out: Lillis. Officials: Michael Stephens, Lee Marelli, Mike McCloskey. Attendance: 3,380.