Stony Brook, NY (SportsNetwork.com) - Albany is heading back to the NCAA Tournament for the second straight year as the America East champion and Stony Brook again came up just short in the title game.
The Great Danes closed the contest with a big run after leading scorer Sam Rowley fouled out with more than seven minutes to play and went on to claim a 69-60 victory on the Seawolves' home floor.
Rowley scored 18 points, but committed his fifth foul with 7:02 remaining and Albany responded with a 23-8 spurt to finish the contest. DJ Evans added 16 points and Peter Hooley chipped in 15, including a big 3-pointer in the closing minutes for the Great Danes (18-14), who will make their fourth trip to the NCAA Tournament -- all since 2006.
Carson Puriefoy scored 13 to lead Stony Brook (23-10), which has lost in the AEC championship game three times in the last four years.
"Give all the credit to Albany, they are well coached and they executed down the stretch and made all the plays to win," Stony Brook head coach Steve Pikiell said. "We weren't able to make shots today, just had no rhythm."
It was a game of runs and Rowley capped an 8-0 Albany burst with a layup to give the Great Danes a 46-44 lead, but momentum again went the other way as Stony Brook answered with the next eight. Rowley was called for his fifth foul on a rebound attempt and Eric McAlister's resulting free throw gave the Seawolves a 52-46 advantage.
The Great Danes responded by scoring the next six, as a pair of John Puk free throws tied it with 5:40 to play.
Puk converted a pair from the line to snap a 54-54 deadlock with 2 1/2 minutes remaining and Hooley followed a Stony Brook miss with a bucket to extend the advantage. After Puriefoy drained a jumper for Stony Brook, Hooley sank a big three with just over a minute left for a 61-56 margin.
Anthony Jackson missed a three at the other end and the Seawolves were forced to foul. Gary Johnson made four straight from the line for a nine-point cushion with 36 seconds to play and four more Albany free throws countered a pair of easy Stony Brook buckets to seal the contest.
Albany made its last 18 free throws after missing its first attempt from the stripe.
Stony Brook opened the game with the first nine points, but Albany called a timeout and quickly answered with the next 10. The Great Danes built a 20-14 lead on a basket by Evans midway through the opening half.
The Seawolves followed with seven in a row to move in front by one, but a three from Evans put Albany back on top and the Great Danes went on to lead by as many as five before taking a 34-31 edge to the intermission.
Stony Brook was down 38-34 before embarking on a 10-0 run. Puriefoy's three from the corner gave Stony Brook the lead and Rayshaun McGrew's layup made it a 44-38 game with 11 1/2 minutes remaining before Rowley's jumper ended Albany's drought.
Hooley was named the tournament's Most Outstanding Player ... Albany dropped a 73-61 decision to Duke in last year's NCAA Tournament and previously fell to Virginia in the 2007 tourney as well as Connecticut in 2006 ... The Great Danes had beaten Vermont in each of their three previous AEC title games ... This marked the fifth straight AEC tourney meeting for the State University of New York rivals. Stony Brook won quarterfinal games in 2010 and 2011 as well as a semifinal matchup in 2012, while Albany beat a top-seeded Stony Brook squad in last year's semifinals ... Albany now owns a 38-26 advantage in the all-time series, which includes Division II and Division III meetings ... Home teams are 25-6 in America East title games, but the road team has won the last three.