University at Albany coaches and players wanted to make Thursday night’s game a memorable one for the senior class.
And despite a mediocre first half, the Great Danes bounced back with an outstanding second half and bounced New Hampshire, 56-49, on senior night at SEFCU Arena.
Senior guard Mike Black poured in 23 points to go along with six rebounds, two assists and a steal, and sophomore Sam Rowley scored all of his 11 points in the second half before fouling out.
The Great Danes, who completed a season sweep of UNH, improved to 9-6 in the America East Conference and 21-9 overall. UNH fell to 4-11 and 8-19.
UAlbany, which shot just 28 percent from the floor in the first 20 minutes, shot 57.1 percent in the second half and held the Wilcats to just 28.6 in the second half.
“It was our last regular-season home game, and it was senior night. We wanted to make it a remarkable night tonight,” said Black.
“My parents were here from Chicago, and I wanted to put on a show for them and make them proud. We knew what we had to do.”
“It was definitely special for them [the seniors],” added Rowley. “It was definitely special to send them out as winners. It was quite a motivation for us.”
UNH put the clamps down defensively in the first half, and the Wildcats also shot extremely well from three-point range, sinking six of 15 shots from beyond the arc. Patrick Konan, who made four trifectas in the first half and scored 14 points in the first 20 minutes, finished with a game-high 24 points on 9-for-10 shooting.
“I thought we were good defensively in the first half,” said UNH head coach Bill Herrion. “We held them to 28 percent, and I thought we should have had a bigger lead.”
Herrion, who is the winningest coach, in terms of conference victories in league history, said Black’s performance was not surprising.
“He’s had a terrific career,” Herrion said. “Each year, his game has gotten better and better. He’s definitely one of the best guards I’ve seen in this league, and I’ve coached here for a long time. Black stepped up and hurt us early in the second half.”
“I’m not surprised by how Mike played,” added Rowley. “He had a quiet 23. To be honest, it wasn’t one of his better games.”
UAlbany’s 10-3 run to start the second half helped the Danes take a 31-27 lead. The Great Danes’ lead kept moving back and forth between one and seven points before Rowley’s pair of free throws with 3:47 remaining gave UAlbany a 54-45 cushion.
The Wildcats only got as close as five points the rest of the way.
“I think this was a very important win for us on senior night,” said UAlbany head coach Will Brown. “We wanted to ruin Fairfield’s senior day last weekend, and we did. At halftime, I told our players that I wanted them to throw the ball inside on every possession. I told them that we were going to walk off the floor with a win for our seniors.”
Although he scored only six points and grabbed three rebounds, junior Gary Johnson played outstanding defense in his 25 minutes.
“Gary’s been good. He wants to please me so much that he hasn’t been that aggressive offensively, because he doesn’t want to make any mistakes and come out of the game,” said Brown. “But he’s been terrific defensively, and he has a lot more offense than he’s shown.
“We’re trying to find balance in our minutes right now.”
Redshirt freshman Peter Hooley, who missed several games because of a concussion, scored five points in 15 minutes.
UAlbany closes out the regular season at first-place Stony Brook Sunday afternoon.
“UAlbany is a very good team,” said Herrion. “UAlbany has 21 wins, and I wouldn’t want to be the team has to play them in the semifinals here. They have a great advantage here with the crowd, the fan support, and the fact that they have a group of seniors who know that it will be one-and-done if they lose in the tournament.”
NEW HAMPSHIRE (49)
Konan 9-10 0-0 24, Myrick 3-15 1-3 9, Matagrano 0-2 0-0 0, Rhoads 3-12 2-4 9, Bronner 0-2 0-0 0, Mortenson 0-0 0-0 0, McDonnell 0-0 0-0 0, Okeke 1-2 0-0 3, Morris 0-5 0-0 0, Trotman 1-2 2-3 4. Totals: 17-50 5-10 49.
Rowley 4-5 3-3 11, Metcalf 2-4 0-0 4, Iati 1-7 2-2 5, Black 9-14 2-7 23, Guerrier 0-3 0-0 0, Evans 0-1 0-0 0, Devlin 0-1 0-0 0, Hooley 2-5 0-0 5, Johnson 1- 4-4 6, Puk 0-3 2-2 2. Totals: 19-46 13-18 56.
Halftime: New Hampshire, 25-21. Three-point goals: UNH 10-26 (Konan 6-6, Myrick 2-6, Matagrano 0-2, Rhoads 1-5, Bronner 0-1, Okeke 1-2, Morris 0-4); UAlbany 5-12 (Iati 1-4, Black 3-4, Guerrier 0-2, Hooley 1-2). Rebounds: UNH 28 (Rhoads 5), UAlbany 37 (Puk 9). Assists: UNH 7 (Rhoads 3), UAlbany 6 (Iati 2, Black 2). Personal fouls: UNH 17, UAlbany 17, Fouled out: Rowley. Officials: Jeffrey Anderson, Paul Faia, Tom Fahey. Attendance: 1,888.