UAlbany Heads South To Where It All Began Seven Years Ago
THE OPENING TOURNAMENT TIP
A Friday, March 22 NCAA Tournament Second Round matchup pins the No. 15 seed University at Albany (24-10) against the No. 2 seed Duke University (25-4) in the Midwest Region Bracket at 12:15 p.m. and will be broadcasted nationally on CBS. Kevin Harlan will have the reins to the play-by-play and will be accompanied by analysts Len Elmore and Reggie Miller. This will be the second time for Elmore broadcasting a UAlbany/Duke contest, as he was an analyst for the December 17, 2007 matchup in Durham, N.C. Duke defeated UAlbany, 111-70, at Cameron Indoors. The 111 points allowed by the Great Danes are the most points allowed in the program’s Division I history.
Setting The Scene
UAlbany enters Friday’s contest on a three-game win-streak after running the tables in the America East Conference Tournament in thrilling fashion. Finishing the regular season with a 75-70 loss at Stony Brook (3/10), the hosting No. 4 seeded Great Danes rallied to overcome #5 Maine (50-49) and #1 Stony Brook (61-59) in the conference quarter- and semifinals, respectively. The following weekend (3/16), the Danes traveled to #2 Vermont and overcame the Catamounts, 53-49, clinching their third NCAA Tournament berth and first since 2007.
THE STARTING FIVE
1. Where It All Began
UAlbany will play in Philadelphia, Pa. against No. 2 seed Duke in the NCAA Tournament Second Round contest. Philadelphia was the site of the Great Danes first ever NCAA Tournament appearance back in 2006. In 2006, UAlbany, as the 16 seed, faced a very talented No. 1 seed UConn on March 16 in the then-called Wachovia Center (currently, the Wells Fargo Center). Despite UAlbany’s double-digit lead in the second half, the Great Danes eventually fell to the Huskies, 72-59.
2. Brotherly Love
Philadelphia is dubbed “The City of Brotherly Love” and that is fitting that brother’s Jon and Jacob Iati will have had the same chance to wear a UAlbany men’s basketball jersey for their first trip to the big dance in the same city and arena. Jon Iati, who played for the Great Danes from 2003-07 and is a current assistant coach on the team, played in his first NCAA Tournament contest at the Wachovia Center in Philly on Mar. 16, 2006 and almost upended perennial powerhouse UConn. Jacob will have the same opportunity, in the same city, arena, and team, to take down one of the NCAA’s top dogs in the Duke Blue Devils.
3. A Truly Thoughtful Gesture
Great Dane head coach Will Brown made noise on the campus of UAlbany before the team tipped off in the America East Conference Tournament. On Wednesday, March 6, Coach Brown bought 400 student tickets before the beginning of the quarterfinals contest against Maine. Brown and his staff passed out all 400 over the next two days, while being able to personally meet each and every student that came in. Following the Maine win at 11pm that night, Coach Brown bought 400 more for the semifinals game against Stony Brook and passed them out from 11pm to 3am the next morning before the game.
4. UAlbany, The Giant Slayer
A routine of sensational movies, has garnered two conference championships. In 2007, the Great Danes went to see the movie “300” and chanted 300 when they entered the court with all the fans dumb-founded as to why they were. Then this past conference finals game, UAlbany went to see “Jack, The Giant Slayer,” hoping to give a metaphorical outlook with the Great Danes playing the part as Jack and taking down “The Giants” of Vermont. They succeeded with their 53-49 victory.
5. Close Calls
The Great Danes had three down-to-the-wire games all in the conference tournament and came out victorious. UAlbany is the only America East team to have won both quarterfinals and semifinals games by two points or less since 1980. The Great Danes narrowly defeated Vermont, 53-49, in the finals.
America East Conference Finals
UAlbany as the No. 4 seed traveled to Burlington, Vt. to play the No. 2 seed Vermont Catamounts for the 2013 America East Conference Championship. Prior to the game, the Great Danes were 2-0 all-time against the Catamounts in the finals, with wins on Mar. 11, 2006 (80-67) and Mar. 10, 2007 (60-59).
The Great Danes led by eight, 28-20, at the end of the first half. Black led all scorers at the half, with 11 points on 4-of-7 shooting from the floor.
The Catamonts came back with an 8-2 run to grab their first lead, 45-43, since the 11:20 mark of the first half. Sandro Carissimo hit back-to-back buckets, capping the run to give Vermont the two-point lead with 2:50 remaining.
UAlbany’s Iati responded with back-to-back three pointers, his first points of the game, to reclaim the lead, 49-45, with 1:10 remaining.
After Vermont’s Trey Blue hit a layup to cut the deficit to two, 51-49, Great Dane junior center John Puk shut the door with the final two free throws to send his team dancing. This was the first time in conference tournament history that a seed as low as 4 took home the conference tournament championship.