ALBANY — It played out a lot like a typical Stony Brook vs. University at Albany men’s basketball game, a point both Seawolves head coach Jeff Boals and Great Danes head coach Will Brown made.
Getting a typical Stony Brook vs. UAlbany game, though, wasn’t the widely held expectation heading into Wednesday’s America East Conference clash at SEFCU Arena.
But an undeniably improving UAlbany squad found a way against one of its top rivals to take steps in its development, even as yet another tough loss arrived for the inexperienced Great Danes.
“What you want to do every night is get to the last four minutes and have a chance to win,” Brown said. “I just feel so badly for these guys because we don’t have the wins to show for it, but we’re making great progress.”
That advancement showed in UAlbany’s 67-66 overtime loss to Stony Brook, a program which sits alone atop the conference standings after its latest win and Vermont’s loss Wednesday vs. UMBC. For 45 minutes of action, a UAlbany (0-5 AE, 5-15 overall) squad with five new starters compared to when Stony Brook (5-0, 17-3) ended the Great Danes’ 2017-18 season in the conference tournament quarterfinals went shot for shot with the veteran Seawolves.
In preparing to take on UAlbany, Boals said the team’s progress in the last couple weeks was evident. Since an uncompetitive loss to Vermont and a disappointing defeat against Maine, UAlbany played each of UMass Lowell and UMBC tough on the road. Like in the Great Danes’ loss to Stony Brook, UAlbany fell in overtime against UMBC by a single point.
“Don’t look at their record, especially in a rivalry game like this,” Boals said. “We had to come out, compete, fight, scrap. We knew it was going to be a street fight.”
Stony Brook led 33-30 at halftime, but UAlbany quickly surged ahead in the second half and led for a consecutive stretch of 15:05 in the second half. Stony Brook, though, stayed close and redshirt junior Akwasi Yeboah tied the game at 59 with 1:09 to go, and freshman Miles Latimer put the Seawolves ahead 61-59 with 15.6 seconds to play. Later, UAlbany junior Ahmad Clark answered with an overtime-forcing reverse layup with 3.4 seconds to go.
After a Yeboah 3-pointer to start the overtime’s scoring, Clark scored five consecutive points to give UAlbany a 66-64 advantage. Stony Brook senior Jaron Cornish hit a 3 with 1:43 to go to put the Seawolves up, and both teams went scoreless the rest of the way in a game that ended with Latimer tipping an attempted game-winning 3 from Clark at the buzzer.
“He tried to make a winning play,” said Brown, whose team’s final play had multiple options that Stony Brook thwarted.
For Stony Brook, Yeboah led with 21 points, 11 rebounds and five assists, while Cornish added 14 points. UAlbany freshman Antonio Rizzuto had a career-high 21 points, while redshirt freshman Cameron Healy added 14 and freshman Malachi de Sousa also had a career-high with 11.
Healy said the Great Danes “100 percent” took positives from their latest close loss. Three of the Great Danes’ last four losses in their five-game losing streak have come by a combined total of six points.
“It’s unfortunate,” Healy said. “I think some of these games are going to roll our way.”
Playing in close games, Brown said, has helped the Great Danes — who are starting four freshman, and had freshman total 80.3 percent of their points Wednesday — mature.
“We’re starting, I think, to really value every possession and how it matters in these close games like this,” Brown said.
UAlbany next plays Saturday against Hartford. In that game, the Great Danes will look to avoid their first 0-6 start in conference play since their inaugural 2001-02 season in the America East.
“We’re just going to keep getting better,” Healy said. “It starts in practice and hopefully ends with a win on Saturday.”
Olanyi 2-6 0-0 5, Yeboah 8-12 2-5 21, Otchere 3-4 0-0 6, Cornish 6-12 0-1 14, Latimer 3-14 2-2 9, Moor 1-5 0-0 2, Long 0-0 0-0 0, McKenzie 0-2 0-0 0, Christie 0-0 0-0 0, Garcia 3-7 4-6 10. Totals: 26-62 8-14 67.
Hank 1-3 1-2 3, Lulka 2-6 0-0 4, Rizzuto 7-17 2-5 21, Clark 4-13 0-0 9, Healy 4-13 5-5 14, de Sousa 3-4 4-4 11, Miller 1-4 0-0 2, Campbell 1-6 0-0 2, Lauderdale 0-1 0-0 0. Totals: 23-67 12-16 66.
Halftime scoring: Stony Brook 33, UAlbany 30. Three-point shooting: Stony Brook 7-22, UAlbany 8-31. Rebounds: Stony Brook 40 (Yeboah 11), UAlbany 44 (Hank 8). Assists: Stony Brook 12 (Yeboah 5), UAlbany 19 (Clark 6). Turnovers: Stony Brook 13, UAlbany 9. Total fouls: Stony Brook 12, UAlbany 14. Attendance: 2,316.