Rowley leads MBB past Vermont on Senior Day
By Seth Finkelstein
March 3, 2015
In his last career regular season game, University at Albany forward Sam Rowley scored a career-high 24 points to lead his Great Danes past Vermont 79-73 on senior day at SEFCU Arena on Saturday.
The Great Danes (21-8, 15-1 America East) and Catamounts (17-12, 12-4 America East) had already locked up number one and two seeds respectively in the American East Conference Tournament, but both teams played this game like it was a do or die playoff game.
“I think the game had a little bit of a conference tournament type atmosphere to it,” UAlbany coach Will Brown said.
Both coaches also played their starters for the full game. “What type of message am I sending regardless if I sit guys, these guys want to win,” coach Brown said afterward. “I don’t think our fans would appreciate that.”
Vermont got off to an early 10-4 lead, knocking down two quick threes, but UAlbany countered with a 12-2 run to take a 16-12 lead. From that point on, the first half was very chippy and back and forth. UAlbany center Richard Peters had to leave the game with six minutes left in the first half due to a rib injury, coach Brown said afterward. Nevertheless UAlbany overcame Peters’ absence and only trailed Vermont 39-37 at halftime.
Both teams shot very efficiently from the field in the first half, as UAlbany shot 52.4 percent and Vermont shot 50 percent from the field.
“I hadn’t been that upset at halftime in a long time, I was livid then I looked at the score and we were down two so I knew we were in a good position,” coach Brown said.
Vermont freshman guard Trae Bell-Haynes had a superb first half, even if it didn’t show in the box score. He scored only two points and added seven assists, but also played incredible defense on UAlbany guard Evan Singletary.
“I thought he was really good, made Singletary uncomfortable, kind of disrupted their flow,” Vermont coach John Becker said.
UAlbany started off the second half playing sloppy basketball including a technical called on coach Brown.
“One of my goals this year was not to get a technical, I’m glad John [Becker] got one to so it was even,” coach Brown said of the incident.
Vermont pushed their lead to 48-41 and it looked like they had a real chance at pulling off the upset in the second half.
Two possessions later with the score still 48-41 in Vermont’s favor; Singletary nailed a three pointer to start a run. On the ensuing possession by Vermont, the referees called a jump ball, which coach Becker thought should have been called a foul. Coach Becker argued with the ref and was given a technical. UAlbany guard Peter Hooley made one of the two technical foul shots. UAlbany retained possession and Hooley knocked down a three pointer and just like that the game was tied at 48.
The play of the game came a couple of possessions later. Vermont led 51-50 with 12:33 to go in the game when Hooley made a deep three, but was also fouled on it.
“I was pretty surprised, I was pretty deep so I get in trouble if I shoot too deep. I was lucky that went in and then he ran into me which would’ve helped if it didn’t go in. I was lucky enough that it went down, and then all your teammates rush over and pick you up, you know you’ve got momentum now going forward in the second half,” Hooley said.
Hooley ended up converting the four-point play to give the Great Danes a lead for good.
Down the stretch, UAlbany’s star senior, Sam Rowley, kept the game out of reach by knocking down some jump shots and making some great post moves.
The win finishes a season series sweep against Vermont, with UAlbany’s lone conference loss coming at home against Stony Brook.
For UAlbany, Hooley finished with 18 points, while Ray Sanders scored 15 points. For Vermont, conference player of the year candidate Ethan O’Day scored 19 points while grabbing eight rebounds.
One key stat is that Vermont only made 15 of 27 free throws. UAlbany was much more efficient from the foul line, making 29 of 38 attempts. Vermont had held their last 14 opponents to under 60 points, but UAlbany ended that streak.
After the game, Rowley earned the continued praise from his coach.
“He’s the best basketball player in this league right now. And if he wasn’t such a nice kid he’d probably have gaudy stats that would blow you away. I think it would be a travesty if he weren’t named Player of the Year,” coach Brown said.
UAlbany beat the Catamounts both times this season in two very well played games. UAlbany will begin the America East Playoffs by hosting eighth seeded Maine on Wednesday, March 4 at SEFCU Arena. Tip off is at 7 p.m.