Posts Tagged ‘Mike Black’

Clock Strikes Midnight on Albany’s Cinderella Season

Saturday, March 23rd, 2013

(Philadelphia, PA) – At 2:28 pm Eastern Time, the clock hit 0:00 at the Wells Fargo Center and struck midnight on the Albany Great Danes’ Cinderella season.

Albany, a 15th seed in the NCAA Tournament and perhaps the biggest underdog to ever come out of the America East as the fourth seed in their own conference tournament, fell to second-seed Duke 73-61.

The Great Danes came up short in their upset bid, but walked off the hardwood and out of the bright lights of the game’s biggest stage with their heads held high: For 40 minutes, the bigger, stronger, faster Blue Devils hit Albany with everything it they had – usually in the form of a back-board shaking sledgehammer slam from Mason Plumlee, or a Seth Curry swish – and every time the Great Danes hit Duke right back.

Albany lost the game, but the Great Danes were magnificent in defeat, proving they belonged on the same court as one of the best teams in the country and arguably the most storied program in college basketball history.

“We challenged them. We made Duke work. We made Duke beat us,” said Albany head coach Will Brown.

From the opening tip until the final horn, the Great Danes played the Blue Devils as equals. And this wasn’t a Duke team looking past the Great Danes while playing at walk-through speed: this was a Duke squad still trying to swallow the bitter taste of last season’s upset by 15-seed Lehigh, squarely focused on Albany for revenge.

After spending a year stewing on the Lehigh debacle, Duke came out playing for blood. Albany played even harder.

“We didn’t quit, but we never did all season,” said redshirt freshman guard Peter Hooley. “We were right there with them. I think we are proud of ourselves. We never gave up.”

“We went down fighting against one of the best teams in the country,” said Albany senior shooting guard Jabob Iati.

Iati led the way for the Great Danes, scoring a team-high 15 points on 4-of-9 shooting including 3-of-4 from behind the arc. The smallest player on the floor, Iati was fearless driving the lane and drilling deep three’s with several long arms in his face. Iati, who would be generously listed at 5’9”, added six rebounds and six assists, leaving every last drop he had on the floor in the final game of his career. (more…)

From the End of the Bench to the Center of the Stage

Tuesday, March 19th, 2013

After being relegated to the bench by injuries, Albany junior Luke Devlin took center stage in the Championship Game, scoring 12 points on a perfect 6-of-6 shooting to help lead Albany to the title and the NCAA Tournament (Photo by Sam Perkins).

(Burlington, VT) – Dripping sweat and draped in the Australian national flag, a shy smile spread across Luke Devlin’s face.

Devlin had just played a starring role in Albany’s 53-49 championship game shocker over Vermont, punching the Great Danes’ ticket to the NCAA Tournament by swishing all six of his shots from the floor. Against the Catamounts vaunted front-line, Devlin was unstoppable on offense, leading all post players in scoring with 12 points, while adding five rebounds, two steals and an assist.

Now he was at the center of the media swarm in the post game press conference.

“He was huge today,” said Albany head coach Will Brown after the win, “he’s not bothered by the moment.”

“I just got the opportunity to play a bit more tonight, knocked down some shots and it is what it is,” said Devlin, downplaying his dominant performance.

Two years ago, starring for the conference champion was exactly where the native of Sydney, Australia was supposed to be. Two weeks ago, it seemed all but impossible.

When he arrived on campus in the summer of 2010, Devlin was a star in the making – The Man from The Land Down Under. A 6’8” 230 pound forward with a silky-smooth jumper, nose for the basketball and a knack for pulling down tough rebounds in traffic, Devlin made an impact in the paint and on the perimeter and could take over a game on both ends of the floor. As a freshman, Devlin averaged 7.4 points, 6.9 rebounds and 30 minutes per game and was named to the All-Rookie Team.

Two years later, Devlin was a forgotten man: recruited over and buried under a mountain of injuries. (more…)

The Slipper Fits Albany

Monday, March 18th, 2013

The Great Danes rushed the court in hostile Patrick Gymnasium to celebrate their shocking 53-49 upset of the Vermont Catamounts to punch their ticket to the NCAA Tournament (Photo by Sam Perkins).

(Burlington, VT) – A tidal wave of purple cascaded down over the wooden the bleachers of Patrick Gymnasium, burst through the green and gold floodgates and crashed onto the hardwood floor.

Amidst the sea of purple and gold chaos, first-year Albany assistant coach Jon Iati –who had helped lead the Great Danes to their first two NCAA Tournaments as a player – assistant coach Jeremy Friel – who had first competed against Iati at rival New Hampshire before coaching him as a member of the staff at Albany – and associate head coach Chad O’Donnell bear-hugged at center court; leaping and shouting in celebration – grown men turned kids again by the magic of the moment.

Iati’s younger brother Jacob, a fifth-year senior shooting guard who followed his brother to Albany initially as a walk-on transfer, fought frantically through the fray, searching for his teammate and best friend Mike Black. The diminutive-duo had stood tall as pillars of the program over the grind of the season, and in the biggest game of their lives Saturday, the pint-sized playmakers towered over the court, combining for 22 points.

When Iati finally found his back-court mate, tears were pouring from Black’s eyes and streaming down his face. Now, amidst the uproar, they shared an embrace.

Great Danes head coach Will Brown, wearing a sedated smile, quietly ducked out of the spotlight to find his family: kissing his wife Jamie and embracing his son Jackson.

The final buzzer had sounded. The clock read “0:00,” but it still hadn’t struck midnight on the Great Danes and their fairytale season.

Albany had run the gauntlet through the America East Tournament, exorcising demons and slaying dragons every step of the way. And now, the scoreboard read “Albany 53, Vermont 49” and the Great Danes were the America East Champions. (more…)

Tough Enough: Albany head coach Will Brown and the Great Danes are fighting until the end.

Friday, March 15th, 2013

Albany head coach Will Brown and the Great Danes left it all on the court Sunday, and lived to fight (and coach) another day (Photo by Sam Perkins).

(Albany, New York) – Three minutes into the first half of the second semifinal of the America East Tournament, Stony Brook enforcer Tommy Brenton – the America East Player of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year, and all-around baddest-mother-shut-your-mouth – lowered his shoulder into Albany forward Sam Rowley, sending the 6’6” 240 pound Australian sprawling to the hardwood.

“Sam! He’s not Tougher than you! There’s no way he’s tougher than you!” boomed Albany head coach Will Brown, his voice rising over the deafening din of the capacity crowd. “He is not out-toughing you! He is not tougher than you – not tonight!” Brown commanded, his voice raising another decibel level.

10 Months earlier, Brown was a lame duck coach playing out the string on the end of his career – in the eyes of most, at least – after his top two scorers, Gerardo Suero, a slashing wing and once in a decade athletic talent, and Logan Aronhalt, a big time shooter, unexpectedly abandoned the program (losing Aronhalt to Maryland and Suero on an ill-advised attempt to start a pro career). A month earlier, Brown was being torn to shreds, his accomplishments (among them the massive overhaul of the Great Danes during his tenure, capped by back-to-back NCAA Tournament berths) thrown on the scrapheap by the local media. And minutes earlier, before the opening tip, Albany was already all but declared the loser and Stony Brook anointed the league champion.

Two and a half hours later, Brown, the man with a quote – response, retort, witticism, joke, jibe, and hilarious comeback – for any and every scenario, was speechless, struggling to find the words after the Great Danes shocked the mighty Seawolves 61-59, to punch their ticket to the championship game.

The silence spoke volumes.

“That was a gutsy win; I have tough, tough kids,” said Brown, composing himself after coming to the brink of tears following the Great Danes win.

With 7.3 seconds remaining, and the score tied at 59, senior point guard Mike Black had stood at the top of the key, staring down highly-touted Seawolves freshman Carson Puriefoy. It seemed to be the tailor-made situation for a symbolic changing of the guard – from Black to Puriefoy as premier America East point guard and Albany to Stony Brook as the premier SUNY program.

Except it didn’t play out like that.

Just as he had almost exactly four months earlier in the Great Danes upset over Washington – the programs first ever win over a true-BCS school and arguably the biggest regular season win in program history – Black blew by his man off a crossover dribble, drove right through the lane, and finished in traffic at the rim, kissing the final of his 16 points off the glass for the win. (more…)

Stony Brook Was Who We Thought They Were — Until They Weren’t.

Thursday, March 14th, 2013

Stony Brook senior Tommy Brenton pulled down a game-high 12 rebounds, but scored just six points on 2-of-6 shooting while dishing out only one assists, and the top-seeded Seawolves were upset 61-59 by Albany in the semifinals of the America East Tournament (Photo by Sam Perkins).

(Albany, New York) – Tommy Brenton said it all – and likely far more than the Stony Brook’s senior forward and the America East Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year meant to imply.

Two and a half hours earlier, the Seawolves had already all but been anointed America East Champions — Stony Brook was not simply the number one seed in the conference tournament, but The Number One Seed: the most dominant team to come through the league since the 2005 Cinderella Vermont Catamounts, the Seawolves’ semifinal matchup against the University Albany was a mere formality and an America East Championship and NCAA Tournament berth a foregone conclusion.

Now, Brenton was being asked – more precisely baited – by a Long Island reporter, if Albany’s hosting the tournament – and playing what was in essence a home game against the highest seed – put added pressure on the Seawolves and played a role in the Great Danes’ 61-59 last-second shocker.

“It’s no added pressure for us: we’ve won on the road all year long,” said Brenton, the Seawolves’ senior captain, heart, soul and emotional center, before adding “it was just another game.”

Without intending it, Brenton hit the cause of the Seawolves’ heartbreaking fall right on the head: While Albany amped-up its energy and ratcheted up its intensity to match the magnitude of the moment, Stony Brook played as if it was just another game.

When Stony Brook took the floor 30 minutes prior to tip-off, there wasn’t any of cocky swagger that has been a Stony Brook staple all season long, or the electric our season comes down to this game and we’ll be damned if we’re going home energy that has defined the post season runs of previous America East Tournament Champions (most notably 2005 Vermont, 2002 BU, 2006 Albany and 2008 UMBC).

From the opening tip until just under three minutes remained in the game, the top-seed Seawolves played like they had nothing to lose — in the worst possible way: without passion, purpose, or a sense of urgency. By the time the Seawolves returned to coherence, realizing their NCAA Tournament-or-bust season was on the brink, rattling off a 17-7 run, it was too late.

With 7.3 seconds remaining, Albany point guard Mike Black refused a ball screen at the top of the key, crossed over from his left to his right and beat Stony Brook freshman Carson Puriefoy off the dribble to the hoop, kissing his right hand floater off the glass and in with 2.3 seconds left, for the win. (more…)

Post Season Awards: OBW All-Conference Third Team

Wednesday, March 6th, 2013

Mike Black, 6’ 175, Sr., G, Albany
Overall: 32.2 MPG, 15.1 PPG, 3.3 RPG, 2.5 APG, 1.1 SPG, 28.6% of team possessions
Conference: 31.6 MPG, 14.9 PPG, 3.1 RPG, 2.4 APG, 29.0% of team possessions
A OBW First Team selection as a junior, Black finished third in the league in overall scoring during his final America East campaign, and was a dynamic playmaker during the Great Danes’ impressive non-conference run. The six-foot senior wreaked havoc off the dribble for stretches, but committed more turnovers than assists (a tough number to swallow considering the scorers around him), and disappeared during some of the biggest conference games.

Justin Edwards, 6’3” 185, Soph., G/F, Maine
Overall: 32.7 MPG, 16.7 PPG, 5.1 RPG, 3.4 APG, 1.9 SPG, 31.0% of team possessions
Conference: 31.3 MPG, 15.1 PPG, 4.9 RPG, 3.0 APG, 1.5 SPG, 32.9% of team possessions
The America East’s most explosive athlete, Edwards is quite possibly the most physically gifted player in the conference. The sophomore tied for the league lead in scoring while stuffing the stat-sheet by doing a bit of everything else. So why is he only on the Third Team? Edwards isn’t nearly as efficient as his raw numbers might suggest, and beyond that, he’s gone through extreme stretches of selfish play – perfectly capable of drawing one or more help defenders off the bounce, but more interested in trying to finish 1-on-3 instead of dumping the ball off to a suddenly open Alasdair Fraser or kicking the ball out for an open 3.

Jordan Reed, 6’3” 205, Fr., G/F, Binghamton
Overall: 35.1 MPG, 16.7 PPG, 9.6 RPG, 32.2% of team possessions
Conference: 35.4 MPG, 16.2 PPG, 9.1 RPG, 33.0% of team possessions
Reed’s relegation to the third team may seem as a shock: He led the conference in scoring and rebounding as a freshman – one heck of an accomplishment for anyone, let alone a true frosh. Reed is a top-end athlete who plays with terrific energy and has the potential to one day be the conference Player of the Year. However, as good as Reed was, his numbers were greatly inflated by his massive usage rate – a product of a lack of any semblance of Division I talent surrounding him – and his efficiency was… downright bad.

Clancy Rugg, 6’8” 200, Jr., F, Vermont
Overall: 28.2 MPG, 11.5 PPG, 5.7 RPG, 57.5 TS%, 110.1 ORtg
Conference: 30.2 MPG, 12.6 PPG, 6.4 RPG, 58.4 TS%, 110.1 ORtg
The Catamounts’ leading scorer, Rugg looked like a first-teamer for stretches during the season, giving the Catamounts energy, effort and athleticism around the hoop and in the mid-range, scoring on a variety of post moves while also providing a presence on the glass. When Rugg plays at his best, the Catamounts are extremely hard to beat, Exhibit A being Rugg’s 19-point, 15-rebound performance in UVM’s 81-73 defeat of Stony Brook this January.

Sandro Carissimo 6’2” 170, Jr., G
Overall: 29.7 MPG, 10.0 PPG, 2.8 RPG, 2.3 APG, 1.0 SPG, 1.6 A/TO, 108.4 ORtg
Conference: 30.2 MPG, 10.8 PPG, 2.4 RPG, 2.1 APG, 1.7 A/TO, 110.9 ORtg
Other than some unexpected bouts with nerves during the second half on of the non-conference season, “Big shot Sandro” has been calm, cool and collected under pressure. Heady and steady, Carissimo might not be flashy, but he makes big plays in big moments for the Catamounts.

Personal Vendetta

Thursday, February 21st, 2013
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Boston University point guard Maurice Watson Jr. converts a tough lay-up in traffic in the Terriers 79-69 win. Watson posted his second career, and second straight, double-double with 11 points and 10 assists (Photo by Sam Perkins).

(Boston, MA) – With 10:15 remaining in the second half Wednesday night, Boston University freshman point guard Maurice Watson Jr. stood with the ball, motionless, on the right wing. In the blink of an eye, Watson put the ball on the floor and, in one zero-to-sixty step, was at full speed, driving the lane and the Albany Great Danes were backpedaling on their heels.

Just as quickly, Watson stopped on a dime and fired the ball to freshman gunner John Papale on the right wing, sending Albany scrambling in an air raid drill. In one swift motion, Papale caught Watson’s dish and swung it – like a hot potato – to junior point guard D.J. Irving, the second half of the Terriers lightening-fast dynamic ball handling duo, in the right corner.

Albany forward Jayson Gurrier, in an all out dive, managed to take out Irving’s legs, sending him sprawling to the hardwood, just as the junior let fly. It was no use: with the referee’s whistle echoing off the rear-wall of Case Gymnasium, Irving’s three settled, soft as silk, through the bottom of the cylinder, pushing the Terriers lead to 53-49.

On the ensuing possession, the Great Danes worked the ball to their own star point guard, Mike Black, who sprung loose on the left wing. Black let fly, but his shot fell flat, clanging off the back iron and caroming over the top of the backboard and out of bounds.

It was the night in the nutshell, as Boston University continued its personal vendetta against the America East; punishing every conference foe that gets in their way on their way out the door. On Wednesday night, it was Albany’s turn, with BU stepping on the gas to dust the Great Danes, 79-69, in a run-and-gun romp.

“You’re either going to give up lay-ups off to those two guys,” said Brown off the Terriers dual-point guards, “or they’re going to find [Papale] and he’s going to hit jumper after jumper.”

In their best offensive outing of the season, the Terriers shot 51.9 percent from the floor (28-of-54), 40 percent from downtown (10-of-25) and moved the ball magnificently, dishing out 17 assists to just four turnovers. Four players broke double-figures for BU, which has now won a season-best five straight games and ten of their last twelve. (more…)

“I should have known better”

Thursday, January 24th, 2013

Special to One-Bid Wonders
By Zach Bye

When it comes to the America East matchup between UAlbany and Boston University, it seems the improbable becomes probable and the unlikely becomes certain.

With roughly 12 seconds remaining in the contest Wednesday night, hometown fans began to put on their jackets and prepare themselves for the sub-zero temperatures that awaited them outside the SEFCU arena in Albany. I remember the phrase I used on the air during my radio broadcast of the game after Mike Black’s two free throws gave Albany a seemingly comfortable six point cushion: “All signs here point toward a Great Danes victory that would give the club a 17-4 overall record and remain atop of the America East standings.”

I should have known better.

Boston’s junior guard DJ Irving would somehow jam six points into ten seconds to force overtime and eventually knock off a Danes team that had come into the contest a league best 7-1 at home.

Think about that for a brief second: Six points, ten seconds.

I found out after the fact that Boston’s play by play man and I both made the on-air analogy comparing Irving’s last second heroics to that of Reggie Miller against the Knicks in Madison Square Garden. It was the same scenario with the same result, except no Spike Lee on the sidelines, and Irving didn’t put his hands over his throat symbolizing ‘the choke’. My expression of disbelief must have matched that of the season high crowd of 3,685 judging by their gasp I could hear through my headset.

If this was the first time that UAlbany was on the wrong end of an absurd finish against Boston University I’m pretty sure Danes fans would tell you this single instance would fill their quota, but that’s not the case. Albany has now lost to Boston eight consecutive times dating back to 2009, and more specifically, four straight at home. Between then and now the matchup between the two has been nothing short of storybook. (more…)

Knowing Their Roles: Teamwork, Selfless Play Powers Albany to 68-62 win over New Hampshire.

Thursday, January 17th, 2013
Albany's Jacob Iati passes out of a double team by New Hampshire's Chris Matagrano (33) and Chandler Rhoads (3) in the Great Dane's 68-62 win (Photo by Sam Perkins).

Albany’s Jacob Iati passes out of a double team by New Hampshire’s Chris Matagrano (33) and Chandler Rhoads (3) in the Great Dane’s 68-62 win (Photo by Sam Perkins).

(Durham, NH) – On a moonless night in snow-covered Durham, the New Hampshire Wildcats and Albany Great Danes took to the deadwood floorboards of Lundholm Gymnasium on Wednesday, showcasing their trademarked brands of basketball before the empty seats of the ancient gymnasium.

The Great Danes’ guards got into the lane off the bounce and to the free-throw line en masse, while a roster full of grunt-work grinders and supporting-cast players knew their roles and dominated the dirty work in the trenches.

The Wildcats, meanwhile, shot themselves out of the game in the first half, shot themselves back into it in the second, and shot themselves in the foot in the game’s deciding moments, falling 68-62 at home to their America East Conference rival.

“Anybody that’s watched us all year, we just find ways to win games: no style points – we’re just a resilient group that plays well together,” said Albany head coach Will Brown. “They want to win so badly that it’s straight roll up the sleeves, put on the lunch pail and just find a way [to win].”

“I’m proud that we didn’t quit,” said New Hampshire head coach Bill Herrion. “Disappointed – and this has been a real problem with our team this year – with lack of discipline: following scouting reports and game plans with some people has been really inconsistent.”

Albany won the game by relentlessly attacking the hoop and winning the battle in the trenches. The Great Danes out-scored the Wildcats 32-22 in points in the paint and out-rebounded New Hampshire 35-28. Albany turned 12 offensive rebounds into 19 second chance points, while New Hampshire managed just six second chance points. The Great Danes front court quartet of forwards Sam Rowley, Blake Metcalf, Luke Devlin and center John Puk combined for 27 points and 20 rebounds.

“I thought we had a lot of possessions tonight where we defended really well and then missed box-outs,” said Herrion.

The Great Danes also hit 21-of-29 free-throws, while the Wildcats took just 10 shots from the charity stripe on the night, hitting seven.

“Going into the game we told our kids one of our biggest keys defensively was you have to guard these kids without fouling,” said Herrion. “They’re killing people at the free throw line: They’ve outscored their opponents on the year by 116 points from the free throw line.”

Albany senior point guard Mike Black posted his second straight 20-point performance, scoring a game-high 22 points on 7-of-12 shooting from the floor and 7-of-8 shooting from the line, to go along with six rebounds and four assists.

Rowley, a 6’5” man without a true position, posted his third straight double-double after being inserted into the starting lineup three games ago, scoring 10 points and pulling down 10 rebounds. The undersized Aussie forward is averaging a double-double in conference play. (more…)

Shock the World: Mike Black powers Albany to 63-62 stunner over Washington for program’s first win over a BCS opponent and head coach Will Brown’s 150th DI victory.

Wednesday, November 14th, 2012

Albany players mob Mike Black after the senior point guard propelled the Great Danes to a 63-62 upset over Washington. The win was the programs first over a BCS school (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

Mike Black spent most of the first three years of his career out of the spotlight, taking a back seat and second billing behind one flavor-of-the-month teammate after another. On Tuesday night, the senior point guard took center stage and stole the show.

Black scored a game-high 22 points, the last of which came on a heavily contested lay-up with 3.7 seconds left, as the Albany Great Danes shocked Washington on its own floor, 63-62.

“This is awesome,” Albany head coach Will Brown said in a post-game radio interview. “We played so hard, man. I can’t tell you how proud I am. Nobody thought we had a chance to win this game.”

The win over the defending Pac-12 regular season champions was the first win over a BCS opponent and the biggest regular season win in program history. It was also the 150th Division-I win of Brown’s coaching career. It was a signature win for the Great Danes and the America East Conference, both of which have taken it on the chin during recent seasons.

“It’s my 150th win?” said Brown. “Maybe they’ll give me a raise and an extension. I’ll remember it. We beat a Pac-12 team for my 150th win. I just have to thank those guys for it. I’ve had some great players and some really good teams. Hopefully I’m around to get to 200.”

Black has spent the first three years of his career seeing teammates – Will Harris, Tim Ambrose, Logan Aronhalt and Gerardo Suero – billed as “The Man,” and the program’s best player. If it wasn’t already apparent after last season – a season in which he averaged 13.4 points and 4.3 assists, and emerged as the clear-cut best point guard in the league – it’s now impossible to ignore that the diminutive six-foot senior is the Great Danes’ best player, and quite possibly the best in the league.

Black scored 20 points against fourth-ranked Ohio State in a 82-60 loss on Sunday, and followed it up by scoring 22 points on 8-of-13 shooting Tuesday, while also pacing the Great Danes with team-highs in assists and rebounds, with six and five, respectively.

Black quarterbacked the Danes’ pick-and-roll offense to perfection all night, scoring most of his points blowing by defenders, leaving the bigger Huskies in his dust. The senior closed out both halves with buckets off of slashing drives to the hoop. The first gave the Great Danes a 31-27 lead going into the intermission, the second gave them the game. (more…)