Although the road to the America East Conference tournament championship begins at UAlbany’s SEFCU Arena later this week, odds are extremely high that it will end at Stony Brook’s Pritchard Gym.
That’s why today’s regular-season finale at Stony Brook (2 p.m.) is so important for the Great Danes, who hope to lock up the third seed for the tournament.
The Seawolves (13-2, 22-6) already clinched the regular-season title and the top seed for the tournament, which begins Saturday at UAlbany. The first two rounds will be played at SEFCU Arena, but the championship game will be played at the highest remaining seed the following weekend.
The Great Danes would love to prove they can finally beat the Seawolves, who not only coasted past UAlbany in their first meeting this year but also have had the Danes’ number for the last several years.
“They are good,” said UAlbany head coach Will Brown about Stony Brook, which not only leads the league in field-goal percentage defense (.367) but is also third nationally in that category. The Seawolves are also 12th in the country in points allowed (56.7 ppg).
“They have a small gym with a huge, vocal crowd,” Brown said. “They are the best team in our league. They are a tough, hard-nosed team that rebounds well and defends well.”
Although Stony Brook’s calling card is its defense, the Seawolves also have plenty of other talents.
Their leading scorer is freshman Jameel Warney, a 6-foot-8 post player who averages 12.1 points and 7.4 rebounds per game (fifth in the league). Warney also paces the conference in field goal percentage (.621).
Senior Tommy Brenton, one of the most complete players in the league, is third in assists (4.7 pg), third in rebounding (8.6 pg), and sixth in assists (1.6 pg).
Juniors Anthony Jackson and Dave Coley each produce 11 points per game. Senior Marcus Rouse is the league’s best three-point shooter, percentage-wise (.427).
“It’s a tough place to play,” said Brown. “Our mindset is to prepare as much as we can for them. We might throw everything but the kitchen sink at them.
“We know they will be sky-high, because it will be their senior day, but I feel we will play well, regardless of the final score. We want to feel good about ourselves going into the tournament, and we want to be healthy.”
Although the 9-6, 21-9 Great Danes have had difficulty with the Seawolves, they are still optimistic that they can beat them.
“On paper, they are big and athletic, and they can beat you in different ways,” said UAlbany senior guard Mike Black. “We’ve got to play with energy and make shots to beat them.”
“We want to send a message that we can beat them,” said sophomore forward Sam Rowley. “We know all about them.”
Black is fourth in the league in scoring at 15 points per game, while fifth-year senior Jacob Iati is ninth at 12 ppg. Iati is also fourth in free-throw shooting (.822), fourth in three-point shooting (.408) and second in three-pointers made (2.7 pg).
Despite joining the starting lineup only midway through the season, Rowley is 10th in the league in rebounding (6.4 rpg), while redshirt freshman Peter Hooley, who just returned to the lineup after missing several games with a concussion, is ninth in assists (3.1 pg).