Mike Black finally exorcised the Stony Brook demons.
The senior guard drove the lane and converted a layup with 2.4 seconds remaining to help the University at Albany hold off the top-seeded Seawolves, 61-59, in the America East Conference men’s tournament semifinals Sunday night at SEFCU Arena.
Stony Brook had eliminated the Great Danes from the tournament three years in a row, including last year in the semifinals.
The 23-10 Great Danes became only the fifth fourth seed to reach the tournament championship game. They will play second-seeded Vermont in Burlington, Vt., Saturday at 11:30 a.m.
UAlbany held a 10-point lead (52-42) with 3:56 remaining, but the Seawolves didn’t make things easy for the Great Danes, quickly closing their deficit and eventually tying the game at 59-59, when Dave Coley connected on two free throws with 14.3 seconds left.
That set the stage for Black’s heroics. UAlbany decided not to call a timeout, and Black dribbled upcourt. Jacob Iati was stationed at the near baseline waiting for a pass, just in case, but when Black saw an opening, he darted toward the basket.
“I credit the play to Jacob Iati, because he spread the floor. I would have passed the ball to Jacob if I wasn’t open, but when I beat my man, I went to the basket. Thank God, I made the layup,” said Black. “This feels good. Everybody still thinks we’re not that good.”
“Mike made a big-time play,” said Iati, finished with 14 points.
“He made a big play down the stretch,” said UAlbany head coach Will Brown. ‘We had four guards on the court at the end, and we didn’t call a timeout because we didn’t want to give them any
opportunity to set up their defense.
“This year’s team has a defensive mindset. We’re not wowing anybody, but we’re a good, solid basketball tem. We won 23 games. We haven’t beaten the Washington Generals,” Brown added, referring to a season-long knock on his team that the Great Danes couldn’t beat the upper-echelon programs in the conference.
“We played well at the right time of the year.”
Stony Brook (24-7) shot just 33.3 percent from the floor, but sank 20 of 25 free throws in a foul-plagued game for both teams. The Great Danes shot 40.4 percent and held a 38-32 edge on the boards, despite 12 rebounds from Stony Brook’s Tommy Brenton.
Stony Brook grabbed an early 10-3 lead, but the Great Danes used a 20-4 run to open a 23-14 cushion with 4:23 left in the half. UAlbany held a 28-22 halftime edge.
Peter Hooley’s three-pointer gave the Danes that 52-42 lead, and the UAlbany crowd went wild, but the Seawolves kept clawing back behind Carson Puriefoy’s pair of three-pointers and Coley’s free throws.
Sam Rowley, who grabbed 11 rebounds for UAlbany, fouled out with 34.9 seconds left, and Brenton made two foul shots to cut the Danes’ lead to 58-57.
Luke Devlin then made one of two foul shots before Coley knotted the score.
“Stony Brook was the best team in the regular season,” said Brown. “It was a gutsy win. I’ve got tough, tough kids, resilient kids. I thought we’d be able to match their intensity.”
“This feels great to finally beat Stony Brook after they beat us in this tournament three years in a row,’ said Iati.
“We’re not just happy to be in the finals. We’re going to Burlington to win,” said Brown. “We’ve had success up there in Patrick Gym before. It’s a tough place to play.”
Black led the Great Danes with 16 points and four assists. Junior Gary Johnson started and contributed nine points and four rebounds, as well as some excellent defense against Brenton. Hooley contributed eight points for the Danes.
Stony Brook got 16 points from Puriefoy, 15 from Coley and 10 from Jameel Warney.
With the 23 wins, the Great Danes tied their Division I standard for most victories. It will be the Danes’ third championship-game appearance. They beat Vermont for the conference title in both 2006 and 2007.
STONY BROOK (59)
Warney 4-11 2-5 10, Brenton 2-6 2-2 6, King 1-2 0-0 3, Jackson 1-5 2-2 5, Coley 4-11 6-8 15, Bracey 0-2 0-0 0, Puriefoy 4-9 6-6 16, Rouse 0-1 0-0 0, McAllister 1-2 0-0 2, Mayo 0-2 2-2 2. Totals: 17-51 20-25 59.
Rowley 2-7 1-2 5, Johnson 2-7 5-6 9, Puk 2-3 0-0 4, Iati 5-12 2-2 14, Black 5-9 2-3 16, Evans 0-2 0-0 0, Devlin 1-2 1-2 3, Hooley 3-7 0-0 8, Metcalf 1-3 0-1 2. Totals: 21-52 11-16 61.
Halftime: UAlbany, 28-22. Three-point goals: Stony Brook 5-9 (King 1-1, Jackson 1-3, Coley 1-1, Puriefoy 2-3, Rouse 0-1); UAlbany 8-18 (Iati 2-8, Black 4-6, Hooley 2-4). Rebounds: Stony Brook 32 (Brenton 12), UAlbany 38 (Rowley 11). Assists: Stony Brook 3 (Brenton, Coley, Puriefoy 1 each), UAlbany 10 (Black 4). Personal fouls: Stony Brook 19, UAlbany 22. Fouled out: Rowley, Puk. Officials: John Hughes, Paul Faia, Sean Hull. Attendance: 3,421.