By Elizabeth Brenner
Stony Brook University’s men’s basketball team will face the Albany Great Danes for a bid to the National Collegiate Athletics Association (NCAA) playoffs on Saturday. The high profile game against the Seawolves’ perennial rivals follows a painful defeat (70-46) for the women’s team against Albany in their America East Championship.
The men went up against the Danes on March 2nd at home, which was also Senior Day. The two teams were neck and neck with only one point separating them at halftime with Stony Brook in the lead. Early in the second half, Albany took the lead; at one point in the game the Seawolves were behind by 10 points. With five minutes left in the game, the Seawolves got their second wind and won 73-68, improving their home record to 12 wins and just two losses.
The question for Saturday’s game is whether Stony Brook will again be able to beat the Great Danes, this time with a national title up for grabs. Despite the fact that Albany was fourth and Stony Brook second in the America East standings, the teams are relatively equally matched.
Albany upset the first seeded Vermont to reach the title game in part thanks to Peter Hooley’s 26 points. His 30-point performance in the quarterfinals makes him a player to watch on Saturday.
The Seawolves will be counting on a big performance from Jameel Warney, the America East player of the year. Dave Coley, a senior guard, will need to keep up the work that landed him on the America East All-Defensive Team.
Adding to the emotional significance of the game, this will be the last basketball game played in Pritchard Gymnasium. The facility has hosted all basketball games for the last two seasons and served as the regular home for both home teams since its 2008 renovation. The Stony Brook Arena has been under construction since 2012.
The fans that will pack Pritchard could be an important factor. Coaches and players at Stony Brook University have long said the fans’ ability to rally and support the team can galvanize the players. The athletics website describes the facility, which seats only half as many as the new arena will, as a real home field advantage.
If the Seawolves win the America East Championships, they will earn their first ever bid to the Basketball NCAA playoffs.