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UAlbany Keeps it Close With Florida Before Falling (Audio)

The UAlbany Great Danes’ season came to an end on Thursday afternoon in Orlando, as the 16th-seeded Purple and Gold fell to the top-seeded Florida Gators, 67-55, in the second round of the NCAA tournament.

I spoke with UAlbany color commentator Zach Bye this morning, and he shared his thoughts on the Danes’s run.

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Although the Danes lost, they stayed competitive throughout, trailing by just six at halftime. The Danes then made the first run of the second half, tying it at 39-39 five minutes in on a pair of free throws by Peter Hooley. But Florida used a 16-6 run of its own to open the lead to double-digits with 8:10 left.

Gary Johnson dives for a loose ball against Florida. (Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

A three-pointer by Gary Johnson pulled the Danes within nine at 3:10, but they wouldn’t get any closer.

Regardless of the outcome, the Danes put the rest of the country on notice. They represented themselves, the University and the Capital Region in a perfect manner.

No one would have been shocked if Florida ran UAlbany out of the gym. And no one would have been shocked if the final margin was 28, 38, or 48 points.

UAlbany kept it more than respectable – they had a chance to win for a time and kept the No. 1 Gators in check all night.

Just how’d they do it?

First-Half Shooting

If you’re going to keep a game against the top seed close, you have to shoot well. The Danes shot 46 percent in the first half. They also got unlikely jumpshooting from John Puk, who went 3-3 from the floor in the first stanza. The Danes were able to hit some tough shots and gained confidence early that carried them through. They finished with three players in double figures.

Rebounding

It’s been a theme for our last two weeks of UA talk. Albany was +3 per game on the glass coming in, and that was a major reason why they were able to beat Vermont and Stony Brook in the America East tournament, and then take down Mount St. Mary’s in the “First Four” game.

UAlbany only lost the rebounding battle against Florida by three, and actually out-rebounded them on the offensive glass. The ability to limit Florida to one shot on most possessions was a major factor why the Danes were always within striking distance.

Limiting Turnovers

UAlbany’s guards did an excellent job of handling and beating Florida’s full-court pressure. UAlbany had only 10 turnovers, the same as its No. 1 opponent.

D.J. Evans

The 5-9 senior guard is everything the NCAA tournament is all about. Undersized and gritty, Evans scored 21 points and had seven rebounds. At 5-9 he was the Danes leading rebounder. He was the second leading rebounder for the game.

UAlbany players crowd around D.J. Evans after he was kneed in the head unintentionally against Florida. (Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

He absorbed a knee to the head, sat out a minute, and came back. He got hit again, he got right back up. Head coach Will Brown will miss him and his toughness next season.

Zach Bye on D.J. Evans

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Will Brown

Finally, the sideline master of the Danes. What Will Brown did with this team is pretty remarkable. He got the best out of a 5-9 point guard and four Australian recruits. He won games with a thin bench that didn’t score in the win over Mount St. Mary’s and had just two in this game.

He varied up defenses, throwing everything he could at Billy Donovan’s team. And he had the offense set up perfectly for the Danes. His team broke the press, executed in the halfcourt much of the game; he utilized the backdoor pass and good cuts. He had his team ready to play.

The Capital Region should be thanking you, Will Brown, for a great season and an exciting March.

Zach Bye on what this run means to the Capital Region:

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