March 11, 2006
ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) - These Great Danes finally can say they have some bite.
Jamar Wilson had 29 points and Albany beat three-time defending champion Vermont 80-67 on Saturday to win the America East Conference tournament title and earn the school's first NCAA tournament berth.
Albany (21-10), the top seed for the first time since joining the conference five years ago, was 0-4 in the tournament prior to this year. The Great Danes, who moved up to Division I in 1999, capped their three-game run by stopping Vermont's 11-game winning streak in the conference championship game, the longest in the nation.
Lucious Jordan finished with 18 points and Brent Wilson had eight for Albany, which outrebounded Vermont 38-30.
Freshman guard Mike Trimboli, Vermont's leading scorer, had 16 points on 4-for-14 shooting, Josh Duell finished with 13 points and Chris Holm had 12 to lead the Catamounts. Martin Klimes, the only starter left from last year's team, had four points, seven below his average, and missed all six of his free throws.
Vermont (13-17), which stunned Syracuse in overtime in the first round of last year's NCAA tournament, was seeking its fourth straight NCAA berth, but faced daunting odds as the sixth seed. And the raucous sellout crowd of 4,538 made the task a lot more difficult.
A half-hour before tipoff, the fans were frantically waving the white "growl towels" they were given and screaming 'Let's Go Albany!' And the cheering quickly reached deafening levels as Jordan and Brent Wilson hit 3-pointers in the first minute.
Albany hit its first three shots and scored the first eight points of the fast-paced game against the conference's top defensive team.
A three-point play by Jamar Wilson, who led Albany with eight rebounds, and a driving layup by Jordan boosted the lead to 18-4 at 13:32 as the Danes' up-tempo offense maintained incessant pressure on the Catamounts.
Jamar Wilson, who made an amazing shot while falling to the floor as the shot clock expired and had 17 points in the first half, drained a 3-pointer from left wing as time expired to give the Great Danes a commanding 44-26 halftime lead.
Vermont led the America East in field-goal percentage defense (40.1 percent) and 3-point field-goal defense (30.5 percent), but that didn't bother the Great Danes in the most important game in school history. They went 5-for-7 on 3-pointers and shot 58.6 percent in the decisive opening half while limiting Vermont to 8-of-26 (30.8 percent) and 1-of-8 (12.5 percent) from long range.
If the Catamounts had any hopes of staging a rally in the second half, they were quickly dashed. Jamar Wilson and Jordan made easy fast-break layups and Wilson converted a three-point play to give Albany a 53-33 lead less than five minutes in.
Jordan's 3 from the left corner gave Albany a 74-47 lead with just over seven minutes left.