March Madness has officially arrived for mid-major conferences throughout the week, and that includes our very own UAlbany Great Danes, who are hosting the America East Tournament throughout the weekend at SEFCU Arena. The ladies opened action on Friday with a triple-header of Quarterfinal match-ups (Maine forfeited against UAlbany due to travel concerns, hence only a triple-header), and the action continued Saturday with the four Men’s Quarterfinal games.

In the opening contest, the #2 seed Vermont Catamounts opened defense of their Tournament Championship. They went through a pretty rough first half, but eventually shook off the cobwebs and took out the #7 seed New Hampshire, by a score of 61-42. The Wildcats had a 26-20 advantage at the half, but then got blown out of the water in the second half by a margin of 41-16. Vermont did a good job spreading the wealth, with Candon Rusin leading the way with 14 points and Sandro Carissimo dropping in 10 of his own.

The second game of the day was an exciting contest the whole way, with the #6-seed UMBC upsetting #3 Hartford 69-62. This marks the sixth straight year that the 6-seed has upset the 3-seed in the America East Tournament, and the 9th time in the last 10 years. Here’s the irony, the 6-seed who beat the 3-seed of the Tournament each of the last two years- that’s right, Hartford.

The biggest moment of the game was at the 6:02 mark in the second half, when Hartford’s first-team All-Conference player Mark Nwakamma fouled out of the contest. The Retrievers were led to only their eight victory of the season by Brian Neller, who scored 20 points with 6-of-12 shooting from beyond the arc. UMBC now moves on to the first Men’s Semifinal on Sunday, when they’ll take on Vermont.

The double-header for the Saturday evening session pitted two polar opposite teams: the top-seed Stony Brook Seawolves and the #8 seed Binghamton Bearcats. Stony Brook entered the game with just two conference losses the entire season and a 23-6 overall record, while the Bearcats had just 3 victories all season and only one of them coming in America East play.

As you would expect the numbers to dictate, Stony Brook pretty much dominated from start to finish. The Seawolves had a 37-14 lead after the first stanza and led by as much as 31 points in the second half, eventually moving on to the Semifinals with a 72-49 victory.

The final game of the evening was the 4-seed and Tournament host UAlbany Great Danes against the 5-seed Maine Black Bears. The Great Danes struggled on the offensive end for much of the first half, while Maine was finding their touch from downtown early on. The Black Bears shot almost 60 percent from the field, 58.3 to be exact, taking a 33-24 into the locker room.

Things got very intense throughout the entire second half, to the point where UAlbany head coach Will Brown was assessed a technical foul right before the under-8 media timeout. Maine would commit several mistakes with bad offensive fouls and many turnovers, and UAlbany failed to capitalize the first 15 minutes of the half, but the Great Danes finally put together a run to cut Maine’s lead to 44-42 with 4:25 to go.

The remainder of the game would be a free throw battle mostly, but Sam Rowley got a bucket with about 20 seconds remaining to give UAlbany a 50-49 lead. Justin Edwards would miss two shots for Maine inside of 15 seconds, but Sam Rowley missed two free throws. Edwards would rebound the second miss, go the length of the court and miss a 12-foot floater, giving UAlbany the 50-49 victory.

Sam Rowley carried the Great Danes in the second half, scoring 16 of his 19 points in the final stanza and making clutch shot after clutch shot. UAlbany will face top-seed Stony Brook in the final game of Sunday’s quadruple-header at SEFCU Arena, tip-off around 7:15. Yes folks, March Madness is indeed in full effect.

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