Sunday, January 8, 2012

SUNY Supremacy (Recap of Albany vs. Stony Brook)

The universities in the State of New York school system used to be known with their names starting with SUNY.  There was SUNY Stony Brook, SUNY Albany and SUNY Binghamton, to name a few.   They are officially known as the State University of New York at Stony Brook, the State University of New York at Albany and the State University of New York at Binghamton.

But several years ago, the schools decided to wisely market themselves without the SUNY in front of the name.  SUNY Stony Brook became Stony Brook University.  SUNY Albany became University at Albany and SUNY Binghamton became Binghamton University.  You no longer hear the term SUNY for the most part.

Like the name changes, the schools have a recent history of being Division I basketball programs.  Albany and Stony Brook both became Division I programs in 1999 and joined the America East in 2001.  Binghamton became a Division I program in 2001 and joined the America East the same year.  You could say the SUNY schools saved the America East from extinction after Delaware, Drexel, Hofstra and Towson left the America East for the CAA.

All three schools also have had recent success in the America East.  Albany won the America East Tournament Championship two years in a row in 2006 and 2007.   Binghamton won the America East Tournament Championship in 2009, albeit under controversy that set their program back years.  Stony Brook won the 2009-10 regular season America East Championship and barely lost in the tournament championship game in 2011 to Boston University.

In the 2011-12 season, two of the three schools have had some success.  Binghamton of course might go winless for the entire season.  But entering the game, Albany at 10-6 and 2-0 in conference and Stony Brook at 8-7 and 2-0 in conference have been carrying the SUNY flag.  And on Sunday, the teams faced each other with at least a share of the America East conference lead on the line.  You could say the game was for "SUNY Supremacy" of men's college basketball.

It was doubleheader day at Pritchard Gym, as the men's 2:00 P.M. game was the first game followed by the women's 5:00 P.M. game.   Despite a local New York football team having a home playoff game on TV during the game time start of the men's game, the gym was again full of red in support of the home team.  And the home team didn't disappoint its fans.

The game was tied early on at twelve with twelve minutes left in the first half.  It was a contrast of styles as the Great Danes scored all their points on four three pointers.  Meanwhile, the Seawolves hit six of their first ten shots, all two pointers.

But the Seawolves would go on a 19-6 run over the next five minutes.  And it was an unlikely source leading the way for Stony Brook.  Anthony Jackson, a reserve sophomore guard who only averages four points per game, would bury two three pointers during the run.  Stony Brook was up 31-18 with five minutes left.

Entering the game, Albany had one of the leading scorers in the country, junior Gerardo Suero, who averages twenty two points per game.  And it was Suero and fellow junior guard Mike Black, who kept the Great Danes in the game, as they combined to score Albany's first twenty points.   The Great Danes also had nine offensive rebounds in the first half,  which allowed them to have ten more field goal attempts than the Seawolves.  Despite Stony Brook shooting eighteen of twenty five from the field in the first half, the Seawolves were only up 44-33 at the half.

Albany Coach Will Brown must not have been too happy with his team's defensive performance in the first half.  The Great Danes didn't come out onto the court until three minutes prior to the start of the second half.   You figured Albany would come right out and get back in the game.

But the 2011-12 college basketball season has been hard to predict so far and sure enough, so was the start of the second half.  It must have been something Head Coach Steve Pickiell said at halftime, as Stony Brook came out and picked up where they left off in the first half.  The Seawolves went on a 12-4 spurt led by Bryan Dougher's two three pointers.  At the TV timeout with 15:41 left, Stony Brook was up 55-37.

I was at the game on Sunday with my two sons, Matthew and Jonathan, along with Matthew's friend Stephen and his mom, April, a friend of mine. Stony Brook makes their games family friendly.  This game was no exception. There was a halftime CYO game, a bouncy hippo race and as always the Cotton Eyed Joe dance, led by the Seawolves' intrepid mascot, Wolfie. Wolfie worked the crowd the entire game as I high fived him at least twice and waved one other time.  He also had his typical second half "Shake Weight" distraction, which always gets a laugh out of me.

The lead was still seventeen, 59-42 with about twelve and a half minutes left.  It looked like Albany was done for the day.  But when you have one of the leading scorers in the country, you are never out of the game. And sure enough, Suero became a one man wrecking crew for the Danes.  He scored ten of Albany's next sixteen points and the Great Danes were down only by nine, 67-58 with a little less than seven minutes left.

But the Seawolves and Dougher in particular were too much for the Great Danes.  He hit two more three pointers to put Stony Brook up fifteen, 79-64 with a little more than about two and a half minutes left.   The Seawolves went onto win 81-68 and temporarily take over sole possession of first place in the America East.  Maine is the only other undefeated team in conference but has played one less game.

For Stony Brook, Dougher scored fifteen of his nineteen points in the second half, all on three pointers.  Dallas Joyner had a double double with fifteen points and eleven rebounds and Jackson had eleven points.  The Seawolves had great balance on offense as eight players had at least six points or more in the game.

For Albany, Suero had a game high twenty eight points, including fifteen in the second half.  Logan Aronhalt added eighteen points and Black had fourteen points for the Great Danes. However, those three players combined for sixty of Albany's sixty eight points.

As we left Pritchard Gym, my younger son Jonathan was clutching his little Wolfie doll, which I got for him at the Stony Brook merchandise stand outside of the gym.  A nice memento for him to remember this day.  As for me, my memento was another good forty minutes of live college basketball.

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