There was an interesting parallel to witness during the pregame warm-ups of yesterday’s America East championship. Stony Brook’s players looked like they were participating in “All-Star Saturday Night,” while everything was business as usual for Albany’s players.
The Seawolves are a young team with just four seniors, three of whom see significant playing time. Besides them, no other player on the roster has ever played for a conference championship. The pressure of playing in a game of that magnitude can make a young team nervous, but Stony Brook looked relaxed. Too relaxed.
Instead of using the shootaround to prepare for the game, a few players decided to have a range contest and see who can hit a shot from 40 feet out, shots they’d never take in-game. Maybe it was because the pregame warm-up was the only time those players, who shall remain nameless, would see the court on Saturday. Meanwhile, the Great Danes were on the other end of the court going through their normal shooting drills.
Then Stony Brook’s layup line turned into a dunk contest. Clearly premeditated, even the smaller guards were trying to show off their hops. The student section rained down a bunch of “Ohh’s”, and then a few “Aww’s” when some dunks missed. The Stony Brook Athletics twitter account then tweeted this video before the game started:
Albany continued going about its business like it was just another game. This group was in the same situation last year: the four-seed playing for an NCAA tournament bid in a hostile environment. And the Great Danes stepped on the floor of Pritchard Gymnasium and defied the odds once again, defeating second-seeded Stony Brook 69-60 to win their second straight conference championship.
“I just think that we were ready, and we wanted this badly,” Albany coach Will Brown said. “And I liked the way we warmed up. I looked at the two teams, one team was shooting three’s from 42 feet and slam-dunking it, and the tuba and trombone guys were going nuts. And then I looked my team, and my team was just focused.”
For the first three minutes of the game it looked as if Stony Brook was the more focused team, opening up with a 9-0 run. Albany called timeout and then went on a 20-5 run.
“We know it’s a long game,” said junior Sam Rowley, who had a game-high 18 points. “We know there’s 40 minutes in a basketball game, one run does not make the game. That obviously wasn’t the way we planned on starting the game, but we knew that our shots were gonna fall and that we’d find our rhythm.”
Throughout the game, it just seemed like the Great Danes were more mentally prepared than the Seawolves. Stony Brook trailed for much of the first half and made a comeback to take a six-point lead in the second half. But Albany remained completely poised and answered every run that the Seawolves made.
“The one message I told guys was, ‘Regardless of the score or the atmosphere, stay the course, weather the storm,’” Brown said. “The closer this game was later in the game, the tighter I thought they would be and the more relaxed and loose I thought we would be.” (more…)