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Washington Regional

Albany Unleashes, but Huskies Go the Distance


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Published: March 18, 2006

PHILADELPHIA, March 17 — When Connecticut won the national championship in 2004, Albany finished last in the America East Conference. UConn won 33 games that season against some of the nation's toughest competition; Albany won 5 against some of the weakest.


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Julie Jacombson/Associated Press

Albany's Jamar Wilson driving against Hilton Armstrong of Connecticut last night. No 16th-seeded team has ever beaten a No. 1 team.





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Two years later, on the same court, it took about 34 minutes for the two basketball programs to differentiate themselves. In a single night, in its first N.C.A.A. tournament appearance, Albany nearly made the improbable one-game trip from unknown to unforgettable.


Top-seeded UConn survived a hearty scare from the 16th-seeded Great Danes, overcoming a 12-point second-half deficit and emerging with a 72-59 victory. They move on to play Kentucky on Sunday.


In terms of frights, Albany provided far more than just a harmless poke-your-head-around-the-corner boo for the heavily favored Huskies. They gave an increasingly anxious crowd at the Wachovia Center and a national-television audience a real sense that it might witness the first defeat of a top-seeded team by a 16th-seeded team in the history of the N.C.A.A. tournament. As the game progressed, the feeling grew in accordance with Albany's lead, which reached 12 points with 12 minutes remaining.


"They told me we drew the entire country to watch history being made," UConn Coach Jim Calhoun said. "History wasn't made, thank God."


UConn used a 17-2 run to regain the lead with 5 minutes 48 seconds remaining. Guard Marcus Williams scored 5 quick points to start the surge, then hit a 3-pointer to end it. He finished with a game-high 21 points.


That 17-2 run was part of an emphatic 34-9 surge that UConn used to end the game, as Albany melted meekly back into a statistic, one showing that top-seeded teams hold an 88-0 edge over No. 16's.


As the game ended, the 34-year-old Albany Coach Will Brown grimaced as he extended a hand to Calhoun, who offered a quick hug and kind words.


Away from the small section of UConn fans, a sense of disappointment settled in over the arena until the purple-clad Albany section burst into applause, lifting most of the crowd into a standing ovation.


Before the game, Brown urged his players to make history, offering the "Why not us?" motto that the program adopted.


"People thought the 'Why not us?' was a gimmick," Brown said after the game. "It was not a gimmick. We believed."


Albany towed a small but spunky section of fans with it to Philadelphia. "Why not us?" they chanted at times.


UConn led by 31-30 at halftime, which raised the mostly nonpartisan crowd to its feet as the teams left the court. While the UConn band blared, it could not drown out the spreading adulation for the other team, as even those with no allegiance began to cheer the underdog.


On UConn's first possession of the second half, the ball was stripped. Albany regained the lead with about 18 minutes remaining when guard Lucious Jordan drove the length of the court for a reverse layup. A dunk by the 7-foot-1 Kirsten Zoellner gave Albany a 36-33 lead.


Two possessions later, the lead grew to 40-33. At a timeout with 15:04 remaining, all but the UConn fans were on their feet, turning Philadelphia, for a moment, into the capital of New York.


Momentum built. On one seemingly hopeless possession, as Albany continued trying to milk time from the clock, guard Jason Siggers tossed up a shot from the corner. As the shot arced the shot clock buzzed, but it was drowned out by the roar of the crowd as the ball slipped perfectly through the net.


But it never got any better, both for Albany and for the memorable, improbable storyline that the Great Danes drafted but could not complete. As UConn gained traction late in the game, an exhausted Albany team was left rooting for the passage of time.


"I would be a fool if I said I wasn't looking at the clock every couple of seconds," said Jamar Wilson, from the Bronx, who finished with 19 points, 6 assists and 4 rebounds.


Brown vowed to stay at Albany to continue building the program. The school has played Division I basketball only since 1999.


That was the year Calhoun and UConn won their first national championship.


"This is David and Goliath, and we're bringing our slingshots," Brown told The Times earlier in the week. He also said he would pack two suits for the weekend, and that Albany would bring home and away uniforms, in case it pulled off the unforgettable.


It did not. But it is no longer unknown, either.

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Washington Regional

Albany Unleashes, but Huskies Go the Distance




Brown vowed to stay at Albany to continue building the program. The school has played Division I basketball only since 1999.




Brown vowed to say at UA???? Does anyone have the exact quote?

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In speaking about the growth of the UAlbany program, we have witnessed a major growth in our fanbase at home in a short span of time and a major step in national recognition in one quick shot.


But it's also great to see a growth in the people who view this website. A lot of you have joined us this season - or even in the last couple weeks. I am really impressed by the growth of some of the posters who recently joined us. Your energy and enthusiasm are so commendable, and you all got up quickly to speed on some of the new developments in the program.


The growth on this site is so fast that Patch cannot keep up with welcoming each new member with his famous "Welcome Onboard" in special font any more.

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