Close encounters of the fourth kind.
Although the University at Albany basketball team would rather win by comfortable margins, the Great Danes appear destined to pull out close victories.
For the fourth time this season, UAlbany won by three points or less, when the Great Danes held off Wagner, 66-63, Monday night at SEFCU Arena.
The Great Danes held a 10-point lead (64-54) with just 3:05 left when Mike Black, suffering from food poisoning, hit a floater in the lane, but failed to finish off the three-point play with a missed free throw.
Wagner then took advantage of Black’s lack of energy and outscored the Danes by forcing turnovers with its press down the stretch and cashing in at the free-throw line.
When Jonathon Williams converted a steal from Jacob Iati into a fast-break layup with 35.1 seconds left, the Seahawks were within a basket at 65-63.
Iati had a chance to seal the victory when he was fouled with 17.5 seconds to go, but he missed the second shot, and Williams snared the rebound.
Wagner immediately called a timeout and set up for the last play. Eric Fanning’s three-pointer from the top of the key caromed off the rim with two seconds remaining, and the rebound bounced off to the left and eventually out of bounds as the clock expired.
“We made it more difficult than we had to,” said UAlbany head coach Will Brown. “We were good for 34 minutes, but then we were a step slow at the end. It was a good game to have because we battled adversity.”
Black ended up being the player of the game despite the fact that he was sick all day Sunday and most of Monday after getting some tainted food at a restaurant. He scored 19 points, including 16 in the second half, to help the Great Danes improve to 5-2.
“I felt sluggish in the first half. My stomach was killing me,” said Black. “I don’t remember exactly where I ate Saturday night, but I felt horrible. If I had to play Sunday, I couldn’t have done it. But in the second half, I had to suck it up. I knew my team needed me.”
Black’s teammates knew that he didn’t look well at the team’s shoot-around, but they fully expected him to play.
“When you’ve got guys like Mike Black and Jacob Iati, you know you’re going to be in the game. We trust him,” said redshirt freshman Peter Hooley, who scored nine points and recorded five assists. “I knew Mike was sick, but I also knew that he would play.”
Senior forward/center Blake Metcalf, a former roommate of Black’s, also knew he could count on the senior point guard.
“We’ve got one of the best point guards in the country, no matter whether he’s sick or not,” Metcalf said. “He makes shots over his shoulder when I have trouble making two-foot layups. He was definitely sick tonight. At the shoot-around, he looked like had just been in the bathroom going out of both ends, but when the lights go on, he’ll play. We struggled at the end tonight, but Mike played well when he had to.”
Metcalf benefitted from some outstanding interior passing by the Danes and finished with 12 points on 6-for-8 shooting to go along with six rebounds, two steals and two blocked shots. Iati added 14 points.
Wagner (1-3) was led by Williams with 26 points.
UAlbany, which held a 36-27 halftime edge, led by as many as 15 points at 48-35 with 14:58 left in the game. The Great Danes worked the ball inside frequently with some excellent passing.
Wagner coach Bashir Mason said his team got the look it wanted at the end.
“We knew that Jonathon Williams was having a big night, but he hadn’t shot a three all night,” said Mason. “We felt that even though Fanning was a freshman, he could hit that shot. We got a good look.”
Mason also liked the way his Seahawks rallied back at the end.
‘That’s the kind of team we are. We fight hard on defense. I’m not happy with the fact that Albany shot over 50 percent against us, though.”
UAlbany shot 52.4 percent from the floor, while Wagner shot 51.2 percent.
UAlbany plays archrival Siena Saturday night at the Times Union Arena.
Willams 10-11 6-6 26, Folahan 2-4 2-2 6, Burton 2-7 0-0 5, Ortiz 1-2 1-2 3, Anderson 3-6 1-2 8, Fanning 3- 0-0 8, Naurais 0-0 0-0 0, Burnett 0-0 2-2 2, Parker 0-2 0-0 0, Thompson 0-0 0-0 0, Mody 2-7 1-2 5. Totals: 23-45 13-16 63.
Metcalf 6-8 0-1 12, Guerrier 1-5 0-0 3, Puk 2-2 1-2 5, Iati 4-10 5-6 14, Black 6-10 6-8 19, Evans 0-1 0-0 0, Devlin 0-1 0-0 0, Hooley 3-5 2-4 9, Rowley 1-2 2-2 4, Wiegmann 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 23-44 16-23 66.
Halftime: UAlbany, 36-27. Three-point goals: Wagner 4-10 (Buron 1-3, Anderson 1-3, Fanning 2-3, Parker 0-1), UAlbany 4-15 (Guerrier 1-3, Iati 1-6, Black 1-3, Evans 0-1, Devlin 0-1, Hooley 1-1). Rebounds: Wagner 28 (Williams 7), UAlbany 24 (Metcalf 6). Assists: Wagner 10 (Ortiz 6), UAlbany 13 (Hooley 5). Personal fouls: Wagner 24, UAlbany 15j. Officials: Brian Dorsey, Dwayne Gladden, Jeffrey Anderson. Technical fouls: Folahan. Attendance: 2,256.