Albany — Time was out with just a few seconds left in Albany’s 82-70 win over Stony Brook that stopped the nation’s longest Division I winning streak at 18 games last night at SEFCU Arena. Senior Peter Hooley, the player who stuck the dagger in the Seawolves’ hearts with the game-winning three-pointer in the America East title game last March, gathered his teammates around.
As Great Danes coach Will Brown recounted, “Peter said, ‘There is no celebrating. We’ve been here. We’ve done this. We’ve got to move forward.’”
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Ain’t it the truth. Stony Brook (22-5, 13-1) lost the past two conference title games and the automatic NCAA bid to the Great Danes (22-7, 11-3), and SBU lost to them in the semifinals the previous year. “Our guys are focused because they can see the light at the end of the tunnel, which is the America East tournament,” Brown said. “They’re confident because they’ve beaten [SBU)] in meaningful games before.
“We were the toughest team tonight for 39 minutes until the final minute . . . We’re the one team in the league that enjoys playing them. I’d love the opportunity to play them again.”
Although the Danes have an outside chance to tie for the regular-season title with two games left to play, Brown expects Stony Brook to clinch home-court advantage with a win in one of its remaining two games. But even if Albany has to travel to Island FCU Arena for a potential championship game rematch, the Danes firmly believe they have cultivated a crop of doubt in the Seawolves’ minds over the past several seasons.
“It’s hard to know what they’re thinking without being in their locker room,” Hooley said, “but I think we made a statement tonight.”
The Great Danes combined 54.7 percent shooting, a 37-32 rebounding advantage and hard-nosed defense to hold Stony Brook to 39.4 percent shooting. Reserve Joe Cremo led the way with 16 points, and Hooley added 14 plus 12 rebounds. Albany also got 13 points from Greig Stire, 12 from Ray Sanders and 10 from Mike Rowley.
Jameel Warney led the Seawolves with 14 points in the process of breaking the all-time, all-division school scoring record of 1,978 set by Emeka Smith from 1989-93. He pushed his career total to 1,985 points and added eight rebounds. Ahmad Walker also had 14, Rayshaun McGrew 13, Lucas Woodhouse 12 and Carson Puriefoy III had 10 points, but shot 2-for-11. SBU made only 4 of 20 shots from three-point range compared with 7 of 15 by the Danes. Seawolves sharpshooter Bryan Sekunda had to be helped off the court after suffering an apparent knee injury. SBU coach Steve Pikiell said, “It’s not good.”
The Seawolves cut a seven-point halftime deficit to 37-33, but the Danes went on a 20-9 run for a 57-42 lead that never dropped to single digits the rest of the way.
Asked if the Seawolves’ struggles against Albany are as much mental as physical, Warney said, “It’s a challenge we have to get through. We’ve got to find a way if we are both lucky enough to get to the finals.”
Some might say it’s a good thing to be out from under the pressure of a long winning streak and an undefeated conference record. “I don’t believe in that,” Pikiell said. “Enough people say it, so it might be true. But we want to win . . . I hope we’re both in this position again [in the final]. That would be great.”