Danes can take some sting out of losing season

The University at Albany could erase the memory of its worst Div­ision I season with a couple of vic
PHOTOGRAPHER:

The University at Albany could erase the memory of its worst Div­ision I season with a couple of victories in the America East Conference Championship this weekend.

The Great Danes’ campaign for redemption begins today at noon with a quarterfinal game against top-seeded Stony Brook at Hartford’s Chase Arena. Albany finished ninth in the league standings but avoided a play-in game with Maryland Baltimore County after fifth-seeded Binghamton pulled out of the tournament.

Albany, although only 7-24 overall and just 2-14 in conference play, matched up well with the Seawolves. They were tied with a minute to go and eventually lost by six in the first meeting at Stony Brook, and then lost by two when Muhammad El-Amin hit a buzzer-beater at SEFCU Arena.

“Yeah, for sure. This could make our season,” said senior center Brett Gifford. “It’s been a tough season all year long, but everybody is 0-0 in the tournament. It will be nice to have something to play for.”

Gifford said he wasn’t sure why the Danes are so competitive against the Seawolves.

“We played with a lot of passion against them. We have nothing to lose,” he said. “It’s tournament time, and especially in this league, you never know what will happen. In tournament time, the intensity increases. Hopefully, we can pull off an upset. This is my last shot to get a second ring. We have the pieces to win.”

Junior guard Tim Ambrose, who became the 30th player in program history to score at least 1,000 points earlier this season, said the Danes just want another opportunity to play, regardless of the compet­ition.

“We want another chance to get on the floor again. The last time on our home floor, we had a chance to beat them. It’s still fresh on our minds. It was a hard loss.”

Albany became the first seventh seed in conference history to beat a No. 2 seed last season when the Danes upset Vermont. Ambrose said the Danes would love to pull off another upset as the eighth seed.

“Last year shows anything can happen,” he said.

Senior forward Will Harris, who poured in a career-high 26 points in the regular-season finale at Hartford Sunday, is optimistic about Albany’s chances.

“I’m not too concerned with specific matchups, but our style of play seems to match up well with them,” he said. “The only thing that would erase the disappointment of the regular season for me would be a ring.”

UAlbany head coach Will Brown said the Danes are going into the tournament with a belief in themselves.

“We expect to win, and we are prepared for a win,” he said. “We’re packing for the entire weekend. Our offense is starting to click. We’re going to be very loose. All the pressure is on them. For us, we need to stay within striking distance early and be in a one or two-possession game late in the second half. We’ve played this team tough twice, and our guys are anxious to play them again.”

The Danes’ probable starting lineup consists of Harris, who is tied for the team scoring lead with Ambrose at 12.6 ppg, senior forward Scotty McRae (6.1 ppg, 4.5 rpg), Gifford (2.1 ppg, 3.3 rpg), redshirt freshman Logan Aronhalt (6.4 ppg), who scored a career-best 18 points against Hartford, and freshman point guard Mike Black (6.8 ppg), who was named to the league’s all-rookie squad. Sophomore swingman Billy Allen was named to the all-academic team.

Stony Brook (21-8) captured its first America East Conference regular-season title and won 13 of its 16 league games.

The Seawolves are paced by El-Amin, a 6-5 senior who is third in the league in scoring (16.8 ppg), and Bryan Dougher, who is 10th in scoring (13.6 pg) and has hit 83 three-pointers in 196 attempts.

If Albany wins today, the Danes would play in the semifinals Sunday at 5.

Categories: College Sports

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