Burlington, VT – Jacob Iati didn't take a shot until the final few minutes, then hit a pair of 3-pointers to help Albany capture the America East championship.
Iati's first three gave the Great Danes the lead for good with 2:36 remaining and his second on the next trip provided some separation, as Albany finished off a 53-49 victory over Vermont on the Catamounts' home court to earn their third NCAA Tournament bid.
Albany (24-10), which knocked off top-seeded Stony Brook last Sunday in the semifinals, won the AEC crown in 2006 and 2007, beating Vermont each time. The Catamounts (21-11) were denied a second straight America East title and sixth championship overall.
Iati finished with eight points, adding a pair of clutch free throws in the final minute. Mike Black scored 14 points and Luke Devlin added 12 for the Great Danes.
Trey Blue and Clancy Rugg each scored 10 for Vermont.
Albany led throughout the second half until a drive by Sandro Carissimo gave Vermont a 45-43 edge with 2:58 remaining.
Iati then found some room along the right wing and drilled a three to put the Great Danes back on top. After a Vermont turnover, Iati connected again from nearly the same spot to make it 49-45 with 1:35 left.
Albany had a chance to seal it at the stripe, but John Puk twice missed the front end of 1-and-1s. After the second miss, a putback by Luke Apfeld pulled Vermont within two with 25.9 seconds to play.
Iati was fouled after the inbound pass and drained two from the line for a four-point margin. Blue drove for a basket and was fouled, but missed the free throw to keep it a two-point game with 15 seconds remaining and Puk was able to convert both ends of a 1-and-1 to seal it.
Vermont came out on fire and scored the first 10 points, but Albany quickly shook off the rust and answered with 11 in a row. Rugg countered with four straight to put the Catamounts back on top, but the Great Danes responded with the next 10.
Black's layup in transition put Albany ahead for good and Devlin's layup with 5:10 left in the half gave the Great Danes a 21-14 cushion. Albany led by as many as 10 in the final minute before Apfeld's dunk sent Vermont to the break down 28-20.
Iati was a combined 0-for-11 from 3-point range in the first two meetings this season against Vermont ... Carissimo and Apfeld each scored seven in defeat ... The Catamounts swept the regular-season series, posting a 70-45 in Burlington and a 50-43 triumph in Albany ... As the fourth seed, Albany became the lowest-seeded team to win the AEC tourney title ... The Great Danes improved to 3-0 in AEC title games, while the Catamounts fell to 5-4.