Albany fans storm the court after Stony Brook's Dave Coley missed a desperation shot at the buzzer.(EZRA MARGONO / THE STATESMAN)
Albany fans storm the court after Stony Brook’s Dave Coley missed a desperation shot at the buzzer.(EZRA MARGONO / THE STATESMAN)

The Stony Brook University men’s basketball team fell to the University at Albany Great Danes on Sunday evening, 61-59, in the semi-final game of the America East Championship.

“This year they were two points better whereas last year they were two points better,” senior forward Tommy Brenton said.

The challenge before Stony Brook was immense. The Great Danes, despite being the lower seed, had the home court advantage and their fans were only too willing to make use of it.

“It didn’t hurt us,” Brenton added, “But it definitely helped them.”

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It was an ideal start for the Seawolves, who scored the first seven points of the game, but the Great Danes weren’t going to embarrass themselves in front of their home crowd.

The game tightened further until the teams were tied at 10 points apiece.

They then remained neck-and-neck for the next few minutes, both squads playing tough ball down underneath the basket.

Albany then pushed ahead as it’s maintained a steady attack while Stony Brook was only able to score one basket in a space of approximately eight minutes.

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The home team hit four of its eight three-pointers to make this experience even more unpleasant for the fans who had made the journey from Long Island. Albany had a stronger presence down low and from outside the three-point arc throughout this stretch, going 11-2

“When you get behind like that,” head coach Steve Pikiell said, “You just need to get to the basket.” In the first half, freshman forward Jameel Warney helped to keep his team in the game by scoring eight of its 22 points in that period.

As the two team’s went into halftime, the Great Danes lead the contest 28-22.

The intensity continued to build throughout the second half as neither team was able to decisively pull away from the other.

Freshman guard Carson Puriefoy came off of the bench to give the Seawolves some fresh life, but they were unable to match Albany’s score.

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One of the more crushing moments came when Albany’s Jacob Iati put his team up 47-39 with 6:19 left in the game, lighting the crowd into a frenzy and forcing Stony Brook to call a timeout.

With five minutes remaining, the Great Danes still had a 10 point lead.

Junior guard Dave Coley then hit three straight free throws to cut his team’s deficit to seven, but Albany hit another three-pointer in response to nullify those efforts.

With less than two-and-a-half minutes left to play, Puriefoy hit a three to make the score 55-49 Albany. This was Stony Brook’s last opportunity to keep its title hopes alive. On the first play, Brenton almost stole the ball and forced the Great Danes to call a timeout.

A chance at the line allowed the home team to knock down two free throws and increase its lead to eight. Brenton then cut that lead back down to six with a layup.

The teams then exchanged a free throw as the game approached its final minute. Puriefoy then restored some hope among the Seawolf faithful by knocking down another three.

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With 64 seconds remaining, Albany only led 58-55.

With 34.9 seconds left on the clock, Brenton hit two free throws to make it a one-point game. Luke Devlin of Albany then went to the line a few seconds later and made only one. Stony Brook had one last possession, and Coley drew a foul to earn two chances and the free throw line.

He made both to tie the game.

With 14 seconds remaining, Albany’s Mike Black made one final layup to win to the game and bring Stony Brook’s America East Championship run to an end.

“To win the regular season is so impressive,” Albany head coach Will Brown said. “This is a good win against a good team.”

Stony Brook will now get set to play in the National Invitation Tournament (NIT) for the third time in four years.

“I’m definitely proud of my team,” Brenton said. “The season’s not over yet. We’ve still got to go to NIT and hopefully reach Madison Square Garden.”

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