University at Albany found what it was desperately searching for Wednesday night.
Sparked by a resurgent Sam Rowley and an energized Gary Johnson, the Danes upset America East Conference leader Stony Brook, 77-67, in the team’s best all-around effort of the season in a key matchup at SEFCU Arena.
Stony Brook, which had won seven of the previous eight meetings between the longtime rivals, came into the game with an unbeaten record in conference play, but the Great Danes hit the boards hard, got to the free-throw line on a consistent basis and played strong zone defense to pull off the surprise victory.
UAlbany improves to 5-3 in the conference and 11-10 overall. Stony Brook slides to 7-1 and 15-7.
“I used two words — compete and fight — and I used them over and over,” said UAlbany head coach Will Brown. “If we consistently defend and rebound, we’ve got a chance to win every night.”
The Great Danes shot 26-for-32 from the line and held a 31-26 edge on the boards over the Seawolves.
Johnson, who converted a couple of dazzling dunks, motored all over the court and finished with 19 points. Rowley, whose game has been slowed by a wrist injury, contributed 17 points and 11 rebounds.
Senior point guard DJ Evans and sophomore guard Peter Hooley chipped in with 11 points apiece for the Great Danes, while 6-foot-8, 260-pound sophomore center Jameel Warney scored 21 points on 10-for-15 shooting from the floor to pace the Seawolves.
UAlbany got off to a slow start, trailing, 7-1, in the first five minutes, but the Danes eventually took their first lead, 19-18, on a Hooley trey with 8:36 left in the half. A 10-0 run helped them secure a 38-33 halftime advantage.
The Danes used another spurt (12-0) to pull ahead, 56-41, and they eventually led by as much as 18 (62-44) with 7:31 remaining. The Danes still held a comfortable 72-57 edge with 1:46 to go, but the Seawolves made it interesting at the end with a three-pointer and a three-point play by
“This was a huge win for us, to get that taste of winning again,” said Johnson. “It’s the right time to get going.”
“It was a big win for us,” he said. “It’s like the beginning of a season-changer for us. We needed to prove we could beat one of the top teams. This is just a start. We have been a team that was floundering and looking for an identity. I think we finally figured it out.”
After a team meeting earlier this week, the Danes might have finally figured out what was missing in their game.
“We played with a sense of urgency and competitive fire,” said Brown. “I’ve got some great kids, but they didn’t fully understand what it takes to consistently win. We imposed our will on Stony Brook. I think it shows what we’re capable of. We were very resilient tonight.”
This is the seventh game in the last 17 days for the Seawolves, who were playing without starting point guard Carson Puriefoy, but head coach Steve Pikiell made no excuses.
“Albany did a great job tonight,” he said. “The key for us was at the free-throw line. Obviously, Albany won the battle at the free-throw line. They did a great job getting to the line, and they also outrebounded us. You can’t defend the free-throw line. We lost by 19 points at the line. We’ve also been plus-rebounding against everyone, but Albany beat us on the boards tonight. You’ve got to give them credit.”
STONY BROOK (67)
Warney 10-15 1-2 21, McAllister 2-3 0-0 4, Walker 4-9 2-3 10, Jackson 5-13 0-0 13, Coley 1-5 0-0 3, Mitchell 2-5 0-0 6, Resner 0-0 2-2 2, Braley 0-2 2-2 2, Mayo 0-1 0-0 0, King 2-4 0-0 6. Totals: 26-57 7-9 67.
S. Rowley 5-10 7-8 17, Johnson 5-9 8-10 19, Puk 4-6 0-0 8, Evans 5-8 0-0 11, Hooley 1-7 8-10 11, M. Rowley 0-0 2-2 2, Devlin 1-2 0-0 2, Ennema 2-3 1-2 7. Totals: 23-45 26-32 77.
Halftime: UAlbany, 38-33. Three-point goals: Stony Brook 8-20 (Walker 0-2, Jackson 3-7, Coley 1-3, Mitchell 2-3, Braley 0-2, King 2-3); UAlbany 5-11 (Johnson 1-1, Evans 1-3, Hooley 1-4, Ennema 2-3). Rebounds: Stony Brook 26 (McAlister 6), UAlbany 31 (S. Rowley 11). Assists: Stony Brook 16 (Walker 4, Jackson 4); UAlbany 11 (Evans 4). Total fouls: Stony Brook 24, UAlbany 14. Fouled out: Walker, King. Attendance: 2,482.