(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…)