Once again, the University at Albany basketball team battled fiercely against one of the strongest teams in the country and came up just short.
Although the 14th-seeded Great Danes pulled to within six points twice in the last four minutes, Isaiah Cousins’ key three-pointer with 3:15 left helped third-seeded Oklahoma of the Big 12 pull away for a 69-60 win Friday night in the NCAA tournament at Nationwide Arena.
The Danes, who won their third straight America East title, finished 24-9 and captured the hearts of the basketball nation with a feel-good story from Peter Hooley, who, despite losing his mother to colon cancer, drained the game-winning shot to beat Stony Brook in the conference finals.
Hooley became a media darling, but despite the fact that he scored 15 points, he needed a lot more help against the physically dominating Sooners (23-10).
Big 12 Player of the Year Buddy Hield scored 15 points, and TaShawn Thomas, a transfer from Houston, muscled his way inside for a game-high 18 points to lead the Sooners, who also got 11 rebounds from Ryan Spangle.
Evan Singletary (13), Sam Rowley (12) and Ray Sanders (11) joined Hooley in double figures. It was the last game of Rowley’s career. He finished as the program’s top Division I rebounder.
“I’m proud of my basketball team,” said UAlbany head coach Will Brown. “We did a real nice job of competing against one of the top teams in the country. Before the game, I really thought we were overmatched physically. Oklahoma is a very good team, and the best team won tonight.”
Rowley and Hooley, best of friends, embraced as the final buzzer sounded.
“It was special,” said Rowley. “This whole season has been special and what Peter’s been though this year is amazing. It’s a shame it ended this way. Peter is my very best friend, and I will miss him on the court.”
Hooley echoed his friend’s statement.
“He ended up being the best guy to be around ever,” he said.
“It was very frustrating because we never were able to get over the hump. We were playing such a big school, and we got within six or seven points several times. A shot here or there would have really helped us.”
Oklahoma held the Great Danes to just 37.7 percent from the floor and held a 40-34 rebounding edge. The Danes also failed to capitalize at the free-throw line like they normally do. They made only six of 10 shots.
“Oklahoma was exactly what we expected,” said Rowley. “They are strong, but they are also skilled. They had tremendous presence down low, and it hurt us. Especially in the first half, we weren’t getting on the boards. We played a very good game, but to beat this kind of team, we almost had to play a perfect game.”
“We were just overmatched physically,” added Brown. “We got some good looks, and I told our guys to let it fly. Over 40 minutes, Oklahoma’s physical presence wears on you.”
Brown was especially emotional about losing Rowley, the team’s captain, leading rebounder and scorer after Hooley missed eight games.
“The toughest thing is that I won’t be able to coach Sam Rowley anymore. There’s not a finer player around,” he said.
“We had a great season, and we led our league from start to finish. I’m proud of our guys.”
The Great Danes have played in the NCAA tournament five times in Brown’s 14 years as head coach. They were competitive in four of the five years. Only Virginia, which the Danes played here at Nationwide Arena in 2007, blew the Great Danes out.
UAlbany’s outstanding season included a 13-game winning streak and an outstanding road mark.
Singletary 5-10 1-2 13, Sanders 4-10 0-0 11, M. Rowley 1-4 0-0 2, Hooley 6-18 1-2 15, S. Rowley 4-11 4-4 12, Peters 1-2 0-0 2, Ennema 0-0 0-0 0, Baker 2-5 0-0 5, Stire 0-1 0-2 0. Totals 23-61 6-10 60.
Spangler 3-6 3-3 9, Woodard 2-6 4-6 8, Cousins 2-8 0-0 6, Hield 6-16 0-0 15, Thomas 7-11 4-5 18, Booker 3-7 0-0 8, Walker 0-0 0-0 0, Lattin 0-0 1-2 1, Bennett 2-3 0-0 4. Totals 25-57 12-16 69.
Halftime—Oklahoma, 37-28. Three-point goals—UAlbany 8-25 (Sanders 3-7, Singletary 2-5, Hooley 2-10, Baker 1-2, S. Rowley 0-1), Oklahoma 7-24 (Hield 3-11, Booker 2-6, Cousins 2-6, Woodard 0-1). Rebounds—UAlbany 34 (Sanders 7), Oklahoma 40 (Spangler 11). Assists—UAlbany 15 (Sanders, Singletary 4), Oklahoma 10 (Woodard 4). Total Fouls—UAlbany (NY) 16, Oklahoma 14. Fouled out—M. Rowley.
Categories: College Sports