It wasn't Albany's time to make history in the NCAA tournament, but they still got people talking about them. They went at the Florida Gators head on, refusing to submit to the blowout everyone thought this game would be.
Despite only leading by four points in the game, and that being very early in the game, the Great Danes were able to hang with the Gators, falling behind by at most 13 points. For a 16-seed coming out of a small, mid-major conference, and one that had to fight its way out of the First Four, that's not bad against the overall No. 1 seed in the tournament.
But Florida was the top seed for a reason. The Gators walked away with a 67-55 win.
Once again, DJ Evans managed to play possibly the best game of his career. He was labeled "most entertaining player for the first two rounds" by the announcers. He scored 21 points, coming just shy of his career high of 22 set Tuesday against Mount St. Mary's.
He was also banged up more than anyone else of the court, and will likely have one heck of a headache in the morning. First he got kneed in the face and everyone was concerned about a concussion. Not long after he went down in a fight for the ball, hitting the other side of his head against the hardwood.
But he wasn't the only one getting accidentally beaten up by the Gators, Sam Rowley took an elbow to the face which was called a Flagrant 1, giving him two shots and possession.
Breaking the Florida press kept Albany in the game. Florida head coach Billy Donovan said his guys weren't playing their best defense, but give Albany credit because they didn't back down from the Gators. The inevitable downfall came when the Great Danes were able to get inside but their shots just wouldn't fall. Far too many rolled around the rim and popped back out.
All of this led to people believing that the Danes might have been the first 16-seed to win an Round of 64 game. They had the game tied at 39 with a little less than 15 minutes remaining in the second half and had put Florida big man Patric Young on the bench with three fouls. This gave Albany fans some hope.
But Albany plays with a very short bench, and went with primarily the starters for most of the game. It was obvious that the guys wanted to win and were fighting hard, but you can only do so much before your body is physically tired, especially after playing Tuesday and traveling from Dayton to Orlando in between. John Puk and Gary Johnson played 37 minutes, Evans played 38 minutes and Peter Hooley played all 40. Rowley played 29 because of foul trouble in the first half. If the Danes had a longer bench, maybe things might have ended differently.
The Great Danes plowed through the America East tournament, picked up their first NCAA win and came incredibly close to beating top-seeded Florida. These guys have already done so much for their program and the conference, it's hard to come out of this anything other than proud.