Stony Brook could have moved a half-game behind first-place Vermont in the America East standings. The Seawolves just needed to beat their big rival amid the comforts of home. So the fact that they fell to Albany at Island Federal Credit Union Arena on Thursday night hurt in more ways than one.
The Great Danes held on for a 74-70 win to split the regular-season series.
“I really felt like we let a great opportunity slip out of our hands tonight,” coach Jeff Boals said.
That’s because UMBC beat visiting Vermont, so Stony Brook fell from second to third. Vermont is 11-2, UMBC is 10-3 and the Seawolves are 9-3 (21-6 overall). They still have a home date against UMBC on Wednesday night and road work to do at Vermont March 2.
“You never want to lose the rivalry game,” Boals said. “But I think in the grand scheme of things, where we’re at, being 9-2, losing a home game really hurts. It’s a four-game season now.”
Akwasi Yeboah had 22 points and 12 rebounds and Andrew Garcia added 14 points for Stony Brook. Cameron Healy scored 24 and Antonio Rizzuto added 18 for Albany (10-17, 5-7). The two totaled nine three-pointers.
The Great Danes built a 65-54 lead with 7:55 left after going on a 17-7 run that included a trio of treys by Rizzuto.
“We just weren’t able to get the rebounds, and that was a stretch where we struggled to score a little bit,” Yeboah said.
Then the Seawolves began chipping away.
“We were like in desperate mode,” Garcia said.
When Elijah Olaniyi made a steal and converted it into a fast-break dunk, Stony Brook’s deficit was down to four with 1:02 left. Ahmad Clark made the front end of a one-and-one for a 70-65 lead, but Olaniyi went 1-for-2, too. It was a four-point game again with 41.6 seconds to go.
After Healy made two free throws with 23.8 seconds remaining to make it 72-66, Miles Latimer was fouled trying to shoot a three and made two of the attempts from the line. Devonte Campbell hit one of two for Albany and Garcia scored from in close to get it down to 73-70 with 2.4 ticks left, but Campbell made a free throw for the final margin.
The Seawolves missed 11 free throws. The Great Danes led 36-33 at the break and never trailed by more than one in the game.
“Each game is important,” Garcia said. “Obviously, this game does have a little more importance in terms of pride. But we didn’t come out and play the way we usually play.”