“My phone was blowing up,” said University at Albany senior point guard Mike Black about the postgame reaction from family and friends to his heroics Tuesday night.
Black’s driving layup with three seconds left capped off a 22-point effort and gave the Great Danes a 63-62 upset victory over the defending Pac-12 champion Washington Huskies at Alaska Airlines Arena in Seattle.
“I’ll never forget this,” Black said. “This is a big confidence booster for me, although I always had confidence in my game. I’m just living in the moment.”
UAlbany head coach Will Brown said the Great Danes’ victory was one of the biggest, if not the best, non-conference win in their Division I program history — at least in his 12 years as head coach. It was his 150th career win. He is second on the team’s all-time coaching wins list behind Richard “Doc” Sauers, who has 702.
“Some people are shocked,” said Brown. “They [the Huskies] are not only the defending Pac-12 champion, but they almost never lose at home. I’ve received more than 70 text messages, and I don’t know how many tweets, congratulating me after the game. All told, I probably got 200 emails, texts and tweets.”
Brown noted that although it was an early-season non-conference game, the quality of opponent made the victory over the Huskies special.
“I’ve been here 12 years, and we won at Utah, I think the year before they had gone to the Elite Eight,” he said. “I think it was the first year that [Rick] Majerus wasn’t coaching, so that game, and outside of us going to the NCAA tournament in 2006 and 2007, was the biggest game for us before this. This is obviously the biggest single game we have ever won, that is for sure.”
Brown said there were several reasons why the Danes were able to pull off the upset.
“I think we proved that we are a better team than last year. Last year’s team wouldn’t have won this game,” he said. “We controlled the tempo, and we deserved to win. This is a resilient group, and everyone understands their role. The players feed off of Mike Black. They know Mike’s the guy at crunch time.”
Black wanted the ball at the end of the game, and told his coach to make sure the ball was inbounded to him.
“I wanted to take us home, and I told coach I wanted the ball,” Black said.
Jacob Iati, who canned six three-pointers overall, including 4-for-7 from beyond the arc in the first half, said the Danes were not intimidated by the taller Huskies.
“When the score remained close, we figured we had a good chance to win. We tried to exploit what few weaknesses they had,” said Iati, who finished with 20 points. “We expected that they would come out with a vengeance against us in the second half, and they did. But we just kept working hard.
“We played a lot of close games in the past against good teams, but to be close and not win doesn’t mean that much,” Iati said.
Brown said he hopes the Danes will keep working as hard against their next opponent, Missouri-Kansas City, in the next round of the Hall of Fame Tip-Off Tournament Saturday at Mohegan Sun.
“I told them if they like the way they are feeling now, then to keep doing what they are doing.”