Albany, NY (SportsNetwork.com) - The championship game in the 2015 America East Conference Tournament is a rematch of last year's event, as the third- seeded Stony Brook Seawolves visit the top-seeded Albany Great Danes at SEFCU Arena on Saturday morning.
The winner earns an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
As mentioned, the same two teams met in the 2014 AEC Tournament final, with Albany claiming its second straight crown with a 69-60 victory. It was the Great Danes' fourth title overall, and they can tie Vermont for the conference lead should they win this contest.
So far in the tournament, Stony Brook has posted a pair of narrow wins over No. 6 seed Binghamton (62-57) and No. 2 seed Vermont (67-63 OT). The Seawolves, who are 23-10 on the season and have a record of 13-12 all-time in this event, are playing in their fourth final in the last five years, but they have yet to win it all. Stony Brook has won eight straight games coming into this matchup.
Albany has logged 23 wins this season as well, and the team has won its last five outings. The Great Danes took care of eighth-seeded Maine (83-66) and fourth-seeded New Hampshire (60-58) to earn their place in the championship game. They own a record of 16-9 in the AEC Tournament over the years, and the team has won 11 of its 14 home dates this season.
The squads split of pair of meetings during the regular season, with each winning on the other's home court. Overall, Albany leads the all-time series, 38-28, although Stony Brook leads, 20-17, since making the leap to Division I back in 1999.
Stony Brook battled back from a 16-point deficit to upend Vermont last weekend and earn a trip to its second straight AEC Tournament final. Jameel Warney logged his national-best 20th double-double of the season by netting 24 points and grabbing 14 rebounds, while Carson Puriefoy tallied 15 of his 17 points in the second half, and Deshaun Thrower scored 16 of his 18 in the final frame.
Warney was named the AEC Player of the Year, as well as its Defensive Player of the Year, as the 6-foot-8 junior averages 16.4 points, 11.6 rebounds and 2.5 blocks per game. He is a 53.9 percent shooter from the field, but he has been horrid at the free-throw line, going just 83-of-143 (.580). Puriefoy is the only other double-digit scorer on the team, as he nets 14.0 ppg to go with his team-high 112 assists. Overall, Stony Brook is putting up 65.8 ppg while permitting 60.0 ppg, and it is far and away the top rebounding team in the conference with a margin of plus-8.8.
Led by AEC Coach of the Year Will Brown, Albany won its first regular-season title since the 2005-06 campaign, doing it behind a balanced offensive attack and by playing some pretty stingy defense of its own. The team boasts three double-digit scorers in Sam Rowley (14.0 ppg, 7.7 rpg), Peter Hooley (13.8 ppg, 2.4 apg) and Evan Singletary (13.1 ppg, 2.8 apg), and Ryan Sanders (9.7 ppg, 4.5 rpg) isn't far off the pace. The Great Danes are the top free-throw shooting team in the league (.760).
In last weekend's win over New Hampshire, Hooley hit for 21 points and Singletary tacked on 18 more, as Albany shot 50 percent from the field, despite going just 4-of-13 from 3-point range. A 14-2 edge in points at the foul line was a key factor, helping offset a 10-of-21 performance by the Wildcats from long distance.