"In this world, you get what you pay for." - Kurt Vonnegut
Game #9-345: Stony Brook Seawolves at Albany Great DanesJanuary 29, 2013 7:00 pm
ALBANY, N.Y. - I have no general disdain for free stuff, even though free food
tends to curtail any diet plan
I try to introduce. But I generally don't go too far out of my way when the siren call of "while supplies last" or "no purchase necessary" comes across my television screen or radio.
But, hey, if a few small gimmicks allow more people to get introduced to Our Game, then that's got to be worth it, right? I mean just watch the ubiquitous T-shirt toss, which has occurred at approximately 99 percent of games I've gone to in the last couple of seasons, and that may actually be closer to 100 upon more reflection.
If you've been to some of the arenas that I have, it often seems that there are almost as many T-shirts as people in the stands. At one of the first games I went to, without even really trying, I grabbed a shirt. I felt a rush of excitement, perhaps some of that adrenaline that seems to captivate every crowd in every arena I attend as soon as the call to arms: "It's time for the T-Shirt Toss" comes over the PA system
It's even Pavlovian in some places.
But when I opened it, and saw an M for medium on the tag, the euphoria quickly waned. There's no way it was going to fit. So I found a young boy, gave it to him, and vowed never to catch a free T-shirt again in silent protest.
Upon entering SEFCU Arena Monday night, I noticed piles and piles of black shirts on tables set up in the lobby. It turned out it was a "Blackout" night, in honor of senior guard Mike Black, all the shirts had his number 10 on the back.
The real selfish question from me came soon after, "Did they have an XL table?" A couple of seconds later, there it was. Well, I'll be, a free t-shirt that actually fits me. With seats fairly close
to the court, I even put the thing on, although I've become partial to Stony Brook in the last couple of months.
The thing about a "blackout" or a "whiteout", or any kind of "out" is that it really only works if you can fill the place. As I wandered around SEFCU and saw the adjacent gym packed with students on treadmills and step
machines, I felt like running in there and telling them about the huge game next door and how their school needed them, but we unfortunately have a tendency to overstate our importance (not just in college basketball).
To Albany's credit, both student
sections were filled in the strangely shaped SEFCU Arena. But, other than the band (with some good "Aussie, Aussie, Aussie" chants for the Great Danes' trio of Australian players: Peter Hooley, Sam Rowley, and Luke Devlin), the crowd was fairly tame.
A lot of that had to do with Stony Brook, of course. The defending America East regular season champs look like the class of the league again this year (although they did stumble at Vermont). There are many signs, including some near misses on Red Line upsets in the non-conference slate, that this may be the Seawolves' year to finally get to the NCAA Tournament, and - if so - I have them on my short list of teams that might be able to pull one of those shockers when the time comes in March.
But first thing's first, after Stony Brook raced out to an early lead behind junior Anthony Jackson (if they get him going consistently offensively, look out), Albany made a run, even briefly taking the lead, 16-14 midway through the first half when formerly little-used Gary Johnson came off the bench to give the Great Danes a spark.
It would be their last, however. Jameel Warney will likely be Freshman of the Year in America East mostly for his defensive presence in the lane, but he scored four straight points, and Tommy Brenton followed with a patented spin and layup (on a brilliant call from coach Steve Pikiell from the sidelines, who saw that Brenton had a mismatch and was able to clear out an entire side of the floor for him).
By halftime, Stony Brook led just 35-29, but they would allow just four points in the first 12 minutes of the second half, and the slow torture finally turned it into a rout when Anthony Mayo, another talented player Pikiell can bring off the bench, hit a trio of jump shots. Albany coach Will Brown looked up at the scoreboard to see his team trailing 63-40 with four minutes left, and calmly took a seat; there wasn't much else he could do.
Most of the fans, students included, were either headed for the exits or long gone by then.
Maybe they'll be big Saturday as Albany tries another promotion, this one seemingly with a little more tradition, the "Big Purple Growl and Ferocious Feast"
. At least Binghamton doesn't stand to put up as much resistance as Stony Brook did.
Albany, who had an impressive non-conference campaign and started America East 5-1, has now lost three straight, all at home, unable to break 50 points in the last two, granted against two of the stingiest defenses around in Vermont and Stony Brook.
Somehow, I caught not one, but two T-shirts from the cheerleaders in this game. Or, more correctly, they landed in my lap. Although I was sitting in the third row, it was set back from the first two and from the playing surface. The Great Danes' cheerleaders that came toward our section just didn't have the greatest of throwing arms and although attempting to reach kids behind me, could not (yes, they were female, but I've seen some cheerleaders with some pretty good arms this season, so I'm not going to chalk it up to that). They both landed at my feet.
I gave them both away, hopefully to the intended targets, but there's no way to be sure. They were much more excited than they should have been to receive them, but who am I to judge happiness?
Meanwhile, Black - who was supposed to be the man of the hour - was held scoreless on 0-for-7 shooting from the field, the first time that happened to him since Dec. 8, 2009, when we played just three minutes in garbage time of a 78-60 win over Penn early in his freshman year.
Soon after that, he pushed his way into Brown's regular rotation and has started pretty much ever since. Having seen him at the Mohegan Sun earlier in the season, I thought he was tremendously underrated and couldn't believe his name didn't pop up more when discussing Mid-majority guards.
But lately, a strange phenomenon has being going on with Brown. After scoring 50 points in wins over Maine and New Hampshire, shooting 16-of-29 from the field in the process, Brown has forgotten how to shoot the basketball. Or his confidence is shot. Or he's just been unlucky.
It happens from time to time, the kids that we watch every night are not robots. Over the last four games (including the 0-for on Monday night), Brown is just 9-for-57 from the field, and - not coincidentally - the last three have been defeats.
I specifically remember one Brown #superhoop
attempt early in the second half that seemed halfway down before popping back out.
Brown actually took Black (who came to Albany from Chicago, meaning a lot of people must have passed him over) out for a good portion of the second half, and although he didn't show any visible signs of it, he had to be extremely frustrated. Unfortunately, what is great about Our Game is that it is a competition and not a show. Even on a night where more than 1,000 people (including me) wore a shirt with his number on it, Brown couldn't record a single point. Even his teammates could do nothing but feel his pain
However, the good news for Brown is that these games he's struggling in are in January. He has the track record of being one of America East's best players and the leader of a squad that was once 16-4 before its recent tailspin.
While the finals are at the highest seed, the rest of this year's America East Tournament will be played in the friendly confines (well, not so friendly lately for Black, but you get the point) of SEFCU Arena. A couple of wins would set up a conference final on national television and this recent recession would be a distant memory.
If that happens, I even have a T-shirt with his number on the back to put on for the occasion.
And it fits, too.
STONY BROOK 65, at ALBANY 49
STONY BROOK 16-5 (7-1) -- T. Brenton 4-9 2-3 10; D. Coley 3-7 0-0 6; A. Jackson 5-12 1-2 14; J. Warney 4-7 2-2 10; M. Rouse 2-4 0-0 5; E. McAlister 1-1 0-0 2; A. Mayo 5-9 0-0 10; C. Puriefoy 1-2 0-0 2; L. Hayes 1-1 0-0 3; S. King 1-1 0-0 3; R. Bracey 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 27-53 5-7 65.
ALBANY 16-7 (5-4) -- P. Hooley 6-11 3-3 17; S. Rowley 3-7 2-2 8; M. Black 0-7 0-0 0; G. Johnson 4-6 4-7 12; J. Puk 1-5 2-2 4; B. Metcalf 0-2 0-0 0; J. Iati 1-3 0-0 3; D. Evans 1-3 0-0 3; J. Guerrier 0-2 0-0 0; L. Devlin 1-2 0-0 2. Totals 17-48 11-14 49.
Three-point goals: SB 6-14 (M. Rouse 1-3; L. Hayes 1-1; A. Jackson 3-7; D. Coley 0-2; S. King 1-1), ALB 4-13 (J. Iati 1-3; M. Black 0-3; J. Guerrier 0-2; P. Hooley 2-4; D. Evans 1-1); Rebounds: SB 27 (J. Warney 10), ALB 24 (P. Hooley 5); Assists: SB 8 (T. Brenton 2), ALB 8 (P. Hooley 3); Total Fouls -- SB 19, ALB 12; Fouled Out: SB-None; ALB-None.