The game was right where Albany coach Will Brown wanted it. His Great Danes led by 10 points with less than eight minutes to play, and their defense was making it hard for Stony Brook to score inside.
Then Seawolves freshman Ahmad Walker fought to the rim for a three-point play and a layup. That ignited the offense before the seniors took over on senior day, completing a 21-2 run that led to a 73-68 Stony Brook victory Sunday in the final regular-season game at 1,630-seat Pritchard Gym.
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The raucous home court that will give way to 4,008-seat Stony Brook Arena next season took its final bow, too. "We opened Pritchard with a win, and this was a great game to close it," coach Steve Pikiell said. "I went with the seniors down the stretch. You saw the shots they were making . . . This group was 49-15 in conference play in four years."
After Walker's baskets, senior guard Dave Coley made a three-pointer before senior forward Eric McAlister's layup tied the score at 55 with 5:00 left. Then Coley added two more three-pointers, the last of which came from NBA range and had the crowd roaring. Senior guard Anthony Jackson's three capped the 21-2 run for a 66-57 lead with 1:32 left.
"You hit one and then two, and the basket looks like the ocean," Coley said. "The crowd had a lot to do with that. The energy gets you pumped."
Jackson, who passed the 1,000-point mark, said, "I think it set in for all of us that Pritchard has been good for us."
The Seawolves went 61-18 (.772) since moving back into the facility in November 2008, including 37-3 in the last 40 games.
Albany scored 11 points in its next four possessions, hitting three three-pointers, to make it 71-68 with 13 seconds left. But Jackson's two free throws with eight seconds left sealed it.
Coley scored 17 points, hitting 5-for-8 on threes, and was joined in double figures by Jackson (13 points, six assists), McAlister (13 points), Walker (11 points, nine rebounds, five assists) and Jameel Warney (10 points). Albany got 15 points each from Sam Rowley, DJ Evans and Peter Hooley and 11 from Gary Johnson.
Second-seeded Stony Brook (21-9, 13-3 America East) will face No. 7 Maine to open the conference tournament at 6 p.m. Saturday at SEFCU Arena on the Albany campus. The Great Danes (15-14, 9-7) dropped to No. 4, meaning the Seawolves won't have to face them in Albany, as they did in a semifinal loss last season.
Looking back at Sunday's ending, Brown had to smile at his defensive instructions. "I told the guys to make Coley a shooter, and he shot it," he said. "Coley put in some daggers. I tip my hat to him. He kept backing up further and further . . . Their seniors made big plays on senior day."