Youthful UMBC has made a habit this season of playing well in the first half, only to fall apart down the stretch. Last night at RAC Arena, the Retrievers finally broke that trend, but found the same result.
Facing an Albany team that had lost seven straight, UMBC fell behind by as many as 13 points before its late charge came up short in a 64-60 loss.
After his team's fourth straight loss and seventh of eight at home this season, UMBC coach Tom Sullivan was left searching for answers.
"I think a lot of people will look at it and say, `Well, they're not that good,' " Sullivan said. "The reality of it is we have a young team that can get beat by anyone, and on a given night when all the cylinders are firing, we can beat anyone.
"I just think that what we're really lacking is leadership, and it's really apparent."
It was apparent throughout this one as the Retrievers (6-14 overall, 3-8 America East) constantly hurt themselves. They shot just 34 percent in the second half and made just 15 of 27 foul shots for the game.
The Great Danes (4-16, 2-9), meanwhile, received a stellar shooting performance from point guard Jon Iati, a 5-foot-9 freshman from York, Pa., who scored a game-high 22 points, one off a career high.
Cheered on by nearly 200 fans who made the trip down, Iati began the game with back-to-back three-pointers, helping his team take a 14-6 lead.
The Retrievers clawed back into the physical game, hitting seven of nine to tie it at 22 on Rob Gogerty's long jumper.
In the waning moments of the first half, however, the Great Danes regained control thanks to Iati, who hit a running one-hander, a 15-footer and a three-pointer in the final three minutes to put Albany up at halftime 33-27.
UMBC charged back late, using eight points in 48 seconds by guard Kareem Washington (13 points) - including consecutive three-pointers - to pull within 59-57 with 1:03 left.
Albany, however, sealed it when Jerrad Knotts and Levi Levin each made two foul shots in the final 38 seconds.
"We did what we needed to do to win," said Albany coach Will Brown. "We got a little sloppy in the last three minutes of the game and UMBC made some good plays, but it's nice going home with [a win]."
On a team with several freshmen and sophomores playing key roles, Sullivan said that he knows he'll have to deal with more ups and down this season.
"We don't have those kids in the upper years to lead us, and that makes it hard to win at this level," he said. "I look at our guys and am saying, `Who is telling us what to do?' "
ALBANY - Levine 3-10 3-4 10, St. Hillaire 6-8 0-0 12, Wyatt 3-4 2-2 8, Johnson 0-3 3-5 3, Iati 7-17 5-6 22, Martin 0-1 0-0 0, Knotts 3-5 3-4 9. Totals 22-48 16-21 64. UMBC - Davis 0-1 0-0 0, McJimson 3-6 5-6 11, Feeley 3-8 0-0 6, Gogerty 3-10 0-0 6, Pugh 2-7 3-3 7, Washington 4-8 3-4 13, Dinkins 1-2 1-2 4, Zito 4-9 2-9 10, Housman 1-3 1-3 3. Totals 21-54 15-27 60. Half - Albany, 33-27. 3-point goals - Albany 4-12 (Levine 1-4, Iati 3-7, Martin 0-1), UMBC 3-13 (Gogerty 0-4, Pugh 0-1, Washington 2-4, Dinkins 1-2, Zito 0-2). Fouled out - St. Hillaire, Wyatt. Rebounds - Albany 34 (Johnson 9), UMBC 34 (Feeley 8). Assists - Albany 14 (Johnson, Iati 4), UMBC 12 (Gogerty 7). A - 1,642.