This escape rivaled Houdini’s.
University at Albany avoided a big upset when senior center John Puk was fouled grabbing a rebound and sank one of two free throws with 0.4 seconds left in double overtime to beat University of Maryland Baltimore County, 73-72, Wednesday night at SEFCU Arena.
Freshman guard Rodney Elliott made the first free throw on a one-and-one with 1:06 left, but he missed the second. UAlbany’s DJ Evans misfired on a three-pointer with 35.7 seconds left, giving UMBC what was expected to be the final possession of the game.
But Chase Plummer missed a three-pointer, and Puk grabbed the rebound. He was fouled by Malik Garner as he fell to the floor, and was given two shots to win the game as the Danes were in the double bonus.
Puk, who also blocked five shots, sank the first one and missed the second one deliberately, but he was whistled for a lane violation when he tried to grab the rebound. UMBC’s desperation heave at the end came up short.
UAlbany improves to 2-0 in the America East Conference and 8-7 overall. UMBC slides to 0-2 and 4-11.
“I think it was definitely a foul,” said Puk about the final play. “Someone grabbed me. I felt I was pulled down. It was definitely a foul. The other guys had confidence in me, and I was happy I was able to knock down the winning the shot. I’ve never made a game-winning free-throw before. I knew what was at stake. At least I had two shots. I was glad the shot went down. It feels great.”
“It was absolutely a foul,” said UAlbany head coach Will Brown. “John was knocked on his rear end. How is it not a foul? Nobody wants that call to go against them, but it was definitely a foul.”
UMBC head coach Aki Thomas didn’t agree that the final play was a foul.
“When a team plays 50 minutes of good basketball — 50 minutes of hard basketball — you hope that you will come out with a victory. We deserved to win this game,” he said. “This one hurts. We don’t play to lose games. We play to win. We played so hard tonight. We were consistent. We played hard-nosed basketball for 50 minutes, and we came up short.”
Sophomore guard Peter Hooley poured in a game-high and career-best 27 points and added six rebounds for UAlbany. Junior forward Sam Rowley contributed 20 points, 12 rebounds and five steals, although he did commit five of the Great Danes’ 20 turnovers.
UMBC was paced by Elliott’s 22 points. Devarick Houston and Bryan Harris added 19 and 18 points, respectively.
UAlbany nearly won the game in regulation when Hooley drained a three-pointer with 11.8 seconds remaining. UMBC called a timeout with 5.8 seconds left to set up a play, but Rowley stole the inbounds pass and drove hard toward the basket. He was called for an offensive foul with 2.3 seconds left, but then he stole the Retrievers’ long pass at the end and heaved the ball up at the buzzer.
In the first overtime, Rowley’s hook shot with 27.6 seconds left knotted the score at 69-69. After Elliott’s missed three-pointer with 1.6 seconds left, Hooley grabbed the rebound, and UAlbany called a timeout before he could take a desperation shot. The inbounds pass was then stolen.
“They [the Retrievers] played well. We were disappointed in the way we played,” said Rowley. “We were sloppy. Maybe we were a little overconfident, and we had lapses in concentration.”
The Great Danes, ranked second in the nation in free-throw shooting, sank 23 of 27 from the line, compared to 10-for-13 for UMBC, which shot just 38.8 percent from the floor.
Brown was so disgusted in his team’s play that he pulled his starters with 15:57 left in regulation, but he put them back in about two minutes later.
“I’m not happy with the way we played,” said Brown. “But UMBC played terrific. We’ve just got to learn from it. We weren’t sharp tonight. We were flat. We made 20 turnovers, and that’s not us. We haven’t been turning the ball over this year.”
“We knew what was happening when coach took us out,” said Hooley. “We are leaders, and we knew what we had to do.”
“We needed a kick in the [butt],” said Rowley. “The message was clear.”
UAlbany travels to Vermont Saturday.
Elliott 8-14 2-3 22, Jones 0-3 0-0 0, Houston 7-11 2-3 19, Gardner 1-5 0-0 2, Roseboro 1-7 0-0 2, Plumer 1-4 0-0 2, Taylor 0-6 2-2 2, Darley 2-2 0-1 5, Harris 6-15 4-4 18. Totals: 26-67 10-13 72.
Evans 2-9 1-2 5, Hooley 8-14 6-6 27, Rowley 6-10 8-8 20, Puk 2-5 1-2 5, Shengelia 0-1 0-0 0, Haas 2-6 0-0 5, Devlin 0-1 0-0 0, Wiegmann 2-3 0-0 4, Ennema 0-0 0-0 0. Totals:
22-51 23-27 73.
Halftime: UAlbany, 27-26. Regulation: UAlbany 61, UMBC 61 First OT: UAlbany 69, UMBC 69. Three-point goals: UMBC 10-27 (Elliott 4-7, Houston 3-4, Garner 0-3, Roseboro 0-1, Plummer 0-2, Taylor 0-1, Darley 1-1, Harris 2-8); UAlbany 6-19 (Evans 0-4, Hooley 5-10, Haas 1-4, Wiegmann 0-1). Rebounds: UMBC 36 (Houston 7), UAlbany 38 (Rowley 12). Assists: UMBC 10 (Elliott 3), UAlbany 8 (Evans 4). Total fouls: UMBC 25, UAlbany 16. Fouled out: Roseboro. Attendance: 2,145.