After Albany was thrashed by Virginia
in a 2007 NCAA Tournament first-round game that was a viable athletic contest for about 20 seconds, those of us in attendance on the "little guy" side did a lot of wondering aloud about the future of the Great Danes afterwards. This was a school that quickly ascended from 6-22 independent to two-time America East champions in half a decade... but with two high-scoring seniors (Jason Siggers and A-East POY Jamar Wilson) gone to graduation, it looked like the program was about to drop off the map again. If our spotlight player has anything to say about it, that's not going to happen. Senior swingman Brian Lillis is our ninth Mid-Majority Baller of the Week.
In a rematch of last year's conference championship on Saturday, the 6-5 Iowan hit a career high with 29 points, scoring 19 of those in the second half in a thrilling 80-79
overtime victory over Vermont, putting both teams at 1-1 on the year. Lillis converted on 13 of his 21 shots and also chipped in seven rebounds, three steals and three blocks. Not only did he hit the game-winning shot in overtime with 10 ticks left, he blocked what would have been Vermont's game-winner, a lane bunny by Marcus Blakely (you, um, remember him
). This time around, it was Albany both winning the game and
getting the key highlight.
What's remarkable about this is how far off the radar Lillis was last March. He was essentially the fourth option on a three-option team last season, averaging seven points per ballgame with well-timed shots that allowed him to shoot 52 percent on the year. But he was a complete non-factor in that Virginia loss, wandering around the floor for 25 minutes and scoring no points. This season, however, Lillis really come into his own, more than doubling his scoring average (14.5 ppg) and maintaining a high shooting average while leading the team in scoring. We really thought it would be Brent Wilson's
team this year, what with his outside shot-making ability... he did chip in a double-double on Saturday, but maybe there's leftover trauma from Blakely's crotch coming at his face at 55 mph. Who knows.
Congratulations, Brian, you were a slam dunk for our Mid-Majority Baller of the Week.