BANGOR, MAINE---To kick off this weekend's college basketball action, the undefeated in America East play Albany Great Danes had a road match-up with an improved in comparison to last season Maine Black Bears squad. To many fans of the conference, this game was going to be a double-figures victory for the Great Danes, which would extend their winning streak to eight games.
"That's why they play the games!"
Unable to pull away after taking an 11-point first half lead, Peter Hooley's Great Danes were wrestled back to a one-possession contest before being defeated with two made free throws from Maine sophomore Peter Calixte with just over four seconds remaining.
Coming out much hotter than the temperature outside the Cross Insurance Center, "star senior" Peter Hooley guided the Great Danes to an early 7-2 lead by contributing on all of their first three baskets (5 points and 1 assist).
But, in what would become a common theme, the Black Bears were able to rally and eventually took a 12-11 advantage with a 10-5 spurt capped off by a Shaun Lawton layup.
Following two whole minutes of missed field goals and turnovers that lulled the crowd to sleep, Albany's Mike Rowley made a layup of his own to steal back the advantage with 11:41 remaining in the first half. From there, the two teams went back-and-forth and traded points until Hooley became red hot from beyond the arc with four triples in less than six minutes, propelling the Great Danes to an 11-point edge. Also during the aforementioned time span, Evan Singletary added 7 to complement the 14 posted by Hooley. Now was when Albany was going to pull away. Or so this journalist thought.
Still up by 10 with 80 seconds until halftime, it looked as though the road team would be going into the intermission with full momentum. Not this time! Thanks to two Albany turnovers in the final 45 seconds, Kevin Little had the opportunity to net five of his 16 points to conclude the first twenty minutes while cutting the deficit in half, from ten to five.
In the second half, the Black Bears continued their comeback with another individual burst, this time from "fab freshman" Issac Vann, to put them ahead before the first media timeout. Although, the Great Danes quickly grabbed back the lead before the stoppage, Maine was back in the game and we had ourselves a barn-burner.
For the remaining 15:17 of the second twenty minutes, neither Albany or Maine could put a comfortable gap between themselves and their adversary. In fact, the largest lead by either team down the stretch was four by the Black Bears.
So after Hooley knotted the game for an eighth time with just 59 tics on the clock, Maine's Lawton immediately took the ball to the hoop looking to not allow the upset win to slip away. Clank! But, he grabbed the offensive board and rectified his miss attempt by making his second chance. 79-77 Maine!
With the Great Danes' Ray Sanders tying the game for what would be the ninth instance with a deuce at the clock holding only ten seconds, "stud sophomore" Aaron Calixte took the ball up the floor with time winding down, started his attack, and was fouled. How much time was left? Four seconds. But that isn't even the worst part if you are an Albany fan. What was? Maine was in the double bonus. Swish! Swish! The Black Bears were up two once more.
On what was thought to be their last chance to keep their conference record unblemished, the Great Danes looked to Singletary--not Hooley--to force overtime. The 6'1" guard rushed the ball up-court and went up hard into traffic. Nothing but air. And surprisingly, no whistle! The 1,406 fans in attendance exploded. The game was over! Or was it?
The three-man America East referee crew huddled around a monitor and came to the conclusion Maine's Vann blocked the ball and there was .3 remaining when it hit the sidelines out-of-bounds. The Great Danes had one more chance.
Yet, they failed to capitalize as Dallas Ennema's tip attempt hit the top of the backboard and fell harmlessly to the floor. The Black Bears' crowd roared.
For the first time since November 25, "fab freshman" and Maine's leading scorer Issac Vann was back on the court. And he quickly reminded everyone of his talent. The 6'6" forward, who posted a double-double in his third collegiate game, was phenomenal in his return, for he missed only one of his nine attempts while leading the team with 19 points. Additionally, he grabbed five rebounds, showing he is more than just a scorer. Really, Vann returned at the perfect time for Maine considering they started a grueling trio of match-ups this afternoon. How grueling are we talking? After today, the 6-11 (2-2) Black Bears host New Hampshire before hitting the road against the last conference unbeaten Stony Brook.
Remembered for his 2015 America East Championship game-winner against Stony Brook, Peter Hooley showcased the range he is known for with five three-pointers this afternoon, four of which came in six minutes. Though, the "star senior" was not just hot from beyond the arc but everywhere! Finishing the day with a game-high and season-high 29 points on an 11-of-19 shooting performance, Hooley finally broke out of a shooting slump (from the past three games), which saw him average only 7.7 points per game with a 30% field goal percentage. He and the 14-5 (3-1) Albany Great Danes will look to rebound from their first loss in over a month at home Monday against Binghamton.