Wednesday, February 27, 2008

University of Albany Men's Basketball Defeats Binghamton, 74-62, in Third-Place America East Conference Matchup

Courtesy: UAlbany Sports Information

Vestal, N.Y. - Jon Iati had 18 points off the bench and Brian Lillis added 17 in leading UAlbany to a 74-62 America East Conference victory over Binghamton before 4,711 fans on Wednesday, Feb. 27 at the Events Center. The two teams entered the contest in a four-way tie for third place in the conference standings.

UAlbany (14-14, AE 9-6) led 55-46 with less than eight minutes remaining, but then reeled off a string of 11 unanswered to pull away. Iati, who made 5-of-7 from the field, canned a three-point field goal to push the lead to double figures. Brian Connelly added five of his nine points in that stretch, including a pair of free throws that gave his team a commanding 66-46 advantage with 4:41 to play.

Binghamton (13-15, AE 8-7) trailed by 14 early in the second half, but then rallied behind Lazar Trifunovic, a 6-foot-7 sophomore who had 10 points. The Bearcats closed within six on three occasions, including 44-38 on Mike Gordon's three-pointer. Gordon, who was making his 100th consecutive start, finished with 11 points and eight rebounds.

The Great Danes, who shot a season-best 55.8 percent, answered with nine straight points. Lillis, who added four rebounds, four assists and three blocks, made a three-point play when he was fouled on a bank shot. Brett Gifford, who had seven points and four rebounds in his best outing of the season, later hit a layup. Tim Ambrose scored off a goaltending call for a 53-38 lead.

Brent Wilson was the third UAlbany player in twin figures with 12 points and six rebounds. Reggie Fuller totaled 10 points and nine rebounds for the Bearcats, who had their three-game win streak halted.

"This was a huge win in order to get momentum for the tournament,” said UAlbany head coach Will Brown. “Our guys finally played with a sense of urgency in a difficult environment. We mixed our defenses to keep them off balance. We wanted to force them to adjust to us."

The Great Danes took a 31-18 lead to the intermission by ripping off the final 10 points of the period. Iati drilled consecutive three-point field goals from left of the key to jump-start that run. Connelly scored in the lane before Lillis converted a layup. The Bearcats, who shot just 27.6 percent from the floor, trailed by eight on two occasions in the opening eight minutes. Gordon made a 17-foot jumper off the dribble to close the gap to 21-18 with 2:26 remaining.

"I hit some shots early and got into a rhythm,” said Iati, one of three seniors who will play in his final home game on Sunday against Boston U. “We had planned to change our defenses and they struggled to shoot the ball. This (win) was important in an effort to get that No. 2 seed just in case UMBC should get knocked off in the tournament."

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