In the early goings, it appeared No. 16 seed Albany would roll past fellow No. 16 seed Mount St. Mary’s in the First Four matchup. The Great Danes opened up the first eight-plus minutes with a 21-2 lead.
Mount St. Mary’s would quickly rally, pushing the tempo and draining 3-pointers to not only tie, but take the lead.
The Mountaineers would make it a game in the first half, but it would be Albany, the American East Tournament champion, that would advance to the Round of 64 with a 71-64 win in the first game of the 2014 NCAA Tournament.
The Great Danes get top overall seed Florida on Thursday at 4:10 p.m. in the South Region.
Albany led 67-64 with 39 seconds remaining. Rashad Whack, the Mountaineers leading scorer, had a good look at a 3-pointer, which went halfway down, before rolling off the rim. A missed free throw would open the door for another game-tying three, but for the Mountaineers, it would not be their night from beyond the arc.
D.J. Evans went for a game-high 22 points and at 5-foot-9 guard grabbed nine rebounds. Peter Hooley, the leading scorer, added 20 points.
Both sides had talented guards. For Mount St. Mary’s, it was the high-scoring tandem of Whack and Julian Norfleet, though, the duo shot a combined 7-0f-31 (3-of-19 from three) for 23 points. Will Miller would come off the bench to hit all seven of his field goals from beyond the arc for a team-high 21 points.
Take away Miller’s night from three and Mount St. Mary’s was 5-of-25 from deep.
Mount St. Mary’s wanted to push the tempo and launch 3-pointers, which it did, but it seemed Evans was comfortable in that style. Guard play is important in the NCAA tournament, and the undersized point guard came up big Tuesday night. He thrived in the open floor, and was able to take Mountaineer defenders off the dribble.
A No. 16 seed has never upset a No. 1 seed before. To make matters worse for Albany, which committed 14 turnovers on Tuesday night, it will go up against a Florida team that is top-15 nationally in defensive turnover percentage.
This was Albany’s first NCAA tournament victory.