Albany beats Mount St. Mary's, advances to play Florida

Albany is your first winner of the 2014 NCAA Tournament.

The Great Danes held on to beat Mount St. Mary's in the opening "First Four" game on Tuesday, 71-64. Rashad Whack's potential tying 3-pointer in the final minute rimmed out, as the video above indicates. Albany iced the game with free throws down the stretch.

D.J. Evans was the best player on the floor, as the Albany point guard had 22 points, nine rebounds and three assists. America East tournament star Peter Hooley went for 20 points for the Great Danes. Will Miller led Mount St. Mary's by hitting seven 3-pointers.

"Our goal coming into this game was to stay big and play big, and I'm proud of my guys,” head coach Will Brown said. “I thought we handled adversity well tonight.  I thought we weathered the storm, we stayed the course, and we made plays down the stretch, we finished. That's important. 

“It's a great win for the America East Conference and for University at Albany, our athletic department and our program, and we couldn't be happier."

It certainly felt like the start of the NCAA Tournament, as Albany jumped out to a 21-2 lead -- before Mount St. Mary's responded with its 21-2 run. After that, it was a battle between Albany's desire to play in the half-court and the "Mayhem" style of Mount St. Mary's. Albany was careless with the ball and turned it over too much, but Mount St. Mary's made just 12 of its 37 3-point attempts.

“We had to go on a little run of our own, and then we did,” Hooley said. “They went on another run, and then we had to fight back and make another run. That's what we pride ourselves on -- being resilient.  The fact that we managed to pull it out is a great thing.”

The Mountaineers' March run comes to an end. A 19-point second half comeback in the Northeast tournament quarterfinals jumpstarted a run from a fourth-place finish in the standings to the automatic bid. 

Albany now moves on to play Florida -- and while the Great Danes don't have much of a chance, they have been competitive in past tournaments. Last season, they lost by 12 to Duke in the Round of 64, and they played Connecticut tough back in the 2006 dance. After finishing fourth in the America East during the regular season, the Great Danes have now rolled off four straight wins.

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