Oklahoma Holds Off UAlbany, 69-60, In NCAA Second Round
COLUMBUS, Ohio – Competing in the program’s fifth NCAA Tournament and third consecutively, the No. 14 seeded University at Albany men’s basketball team was held off by No. 3 Oklahoma, 69-60, Friday night at Nationwide Arena. With the Second Round loss, the Great Danes end their season with a 24-9 overall record, marking the best winning percentage (.727) in program history.
“I'm proud of my basketball team. I thought we did a really good job competing against one of the best teams in the country,” said Head Coach Will Brown. “I felt coming in there was a chance we were going to be overmatched physically and athletically, especially in the front court. But, again, I thought we hung around.”
The Great Danes had four players finish in double figures, marking the 11th time this season that four or more players scored 10 or more points in a game. Junior guard Peter Hooley led the way with 15 points, shooting 6-for-18 from the field, followed by junior Evan Singletary’s 13 points (5-for-10), senior Same Rowley’s 12 points and six rebounds, and Ray Sanders’ 11 points and seven boards.
For Oklahoma, TaShawn Thomas logged a game-high 18 points, while Buddy Heild had 15, and Ryan Spanger led the Sooners on the glass with 11 rebounds along with nine points.
While Oklahoma held the lead from their opening possession, UAlbany never let the margin exceed 12 points and cut the deficit to six with less than a minute remaining in the game.
Winning the tip, OU scored on Spangler’s hook, but Sanders got the Danes on the board with his drive down the lane at the 17:55 mark, keeping the score even.
Going 1-for-6 from the field as the Sooners built a 9-3 advantage, Coach Brown called timeout with 14:43 left in the first half. Immediately, out of the break, Singletary cut the margin to four with his take to the rim.
Trading baskets, the Sooners retained a six-point lead, matching Hooley’s three and Rowley’s layup score-for-score, forcing Brown to slow the game down with his second timeout at the 12:27 mark. Again after regrouping, Hooley made it a four-point game, 16-12, with his bucket on the inbounds.
Bodying up in the paint, Rowley muscled the ball off the board, leading to Hooley’s runner at the other end of the court that cut the deficit to three, 17-14.
Scoring 12 of his 15 points in the first half, Hooley’s long trey sliced the margin to two, 19-17, with 8:55 left in the stanza. However, Oklahoma’s Isaiah Cousins and Hield did the same to make it a six-point game, 25-19, heading into the under-eight media timeout.
The Great Danes got within two again, 25-23, on Singletary’s transition lay-in and Hooley’s acrobatic take up the middle at the 6:16 mark.
While, the Sooners answered with a 6-0 run, UAlbany center Richard Peters snapped the streak with his offensive board and up-and-under put-back, making the score 31-25 with 3:35 left in the half.
Oklahoma took its largest lead of the stanza, 35-25, on Thomas’ layup, but Sanders cut it to seven on his three with 10 seconds left. Unfortunately, the Sooners took a nine-point advantage into the break on Jordan Woodard’s buzzer beating layup.
Out of the locker rooms, back-to-back buckets by Hooley and Rowley made it a five-point game, 37-32. While OU ballooned the lead back to eight twice, Sanders knocked down a pair of threes to keep the margin at five, 45-40, with 14:36 to go.
However, the Sooners’ 7-0 run, capped by a layup and three by Frank Booker with 11:27 remaining, gave them their largest lead of the game, 52-40.
The Danes continued to claw, as Wheeler Baker’s three at the 8:43 mark brought the margin back to single digits, and Singletary’s jumper and three made it a six-point contest, 60-54, with 3:53 to go.
With time dwindling down, Oklahoma answered immediately on the other end of the floor on Cousins’ timely three.
“I would have liked to have had the opportunity to see what happened if Cousins missed that shot,” said Brown. “We would have had the ball in our hands and off to the races.”
Singletary cut it to six again, 65-59, on his three from the corner with 1:57 left, but that would be as close as the Great Danes would get.
“Every time we seemed to get close, it seemed like they made a shot to hold us back a little bit,” said Rowley.
Unable to get the ball to fall on two shots behind the arch, Rowley pulled down the defensive rebound, giving UAlbany a chance to make it a one-possession game with 56 seconds to go.
However, Greig Stire’s layup bounced off the rim and into the hands of the Sooners. From there, the Danes were forced to foul and Oklahoma went 4-for-4 from the line to secure the win.
“You've got to credit Oklahoma,” added Brown. “Very well coached team and they're a team that I know a lot of people expected to go deep in this tournament.”
“I thought we played well today. I thought we gave it our all,” said Rowley. “But to beat these teams you need to play nearly a perfect game, and unfortunately we didn't do that tonight, nor did we do it the last year or the year before.”
Rowley, a team captain, closed his career with 1,194 points and 756 rebounds, as well as three America East Tournament titles, a regular season title, and three NCAA Tournament appearances.
Oklahoma (23-10) advances to the Third Round and will play the winner of the Providence and Dayton match-up.