Burlington, Vt. - Jamar Wilson scored 22 points and Jason Siggers added 14 in leading UAlbany to a 60-59 victory over Vermont for its second consecutive America East Conference championship on Saturday afternoon before a capacity crowd of 3,266 fans at Patrick Gymnasium.
The Great Danes, who won for the first time in 10 trips to Burlington since 1925, earned a second straight NCAA berth. UAlbany (23-9) became just the second No. 2 seed in conference history to beat a top seed on their home floor in the championship final.
In a game that featured 13 lead changes and five ties, Vermont (25-7) took a 54-53 lead on Keith Cieplicki's 15-foot jumper. UAlbany's Brian Lillis put his team ahead with a 3-pointer, before UVM's Mike Trimboli hit a pair of free throws to draw his team even at 56 apiece.
Jamar Wilson, the championship's most outstanding player who had 22 points, seven rebounds and six assists, then made back-to-back baskets. His spinning one-hander in the lane gave his team a 60-56 lead. After Cieplicki's steal and basket off a goaltending call sliced the lead to one, Vermont played for the last shot with 32 seconds left. But Trimboli dribbled the ball off Carl Ross' foot and Brent Wilson came up with the loose ball and ran out the clock.
"We knew we had to rebound to have a chance to win," said Brent Wilson. "Five guys went to the glass throughout the game. When I came up with the ball (at the end), I took two dribbles, saw there was two seconds on the clock, and threw the ball up the floor."
The Catamounts, who won the America East regular-season title, and had their 13-game winning streak halted, were led by Trimboli and Marqus Blakely, who had 10 points apiece. Martin Klimes and Cieplicki each scored nine. UAlbany's Brent Wilson finished with six points, all in second half, and grabbed nine rebounds.
"We defended well in this tournament," said UAlbany head coach Will Brown. "We convinced ourselves that we are a grind it out team. The odds were against us. Vermont doesn't lose in this gym; they have both talent and passionate fans. We knew at the end that they were going to keep the ball. We needed to get a stop to win the game."
UAlbany led 27-22 at halftime in an opening period where defense was emphasized. Both teams shot less than 40 percent from the field and each endured a span of six-plus minutes without scoring. Vermont built an 18-13 lead during one of those stretches, as Marqus Blakely delivered a slam dunk in transition. The Great Danes answered with 10 straight. Jon Iati's three-point field goal ended that run.
"It's the best feeling I've had," said America East player of the year Jamar Wilson. "You never want to be a one-hit wonder. You want a chance to do it again, and we did. We played good defense, executed the game plan, and did a good job of rebounding against a team that has two of the better rebounders in the conference."