March 14, 2016

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UUPers punch tickets to NCAA tournament

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Four UUP members are going to The Big Dance—and they’re bringing their basketball teams with them.

Stony Brook University men’s basketball coach Steve Pikiell and first-year University at Buffalo men’s basketball coach Nate Oats will get a taste of March Madness when they coach in the NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Championship Tournament, which starts March 15.

Longtime University at Albany women’s basketball coach Katie Abrahamson-Henderson and UB women’s basketball coach Felisha Legette-Jack will coach their teams in the women’s NCAA tourney, set to begin March 18.

“Congratulations to these hard-working, dedicated coaches, who brought honor to their schools, SUNY and UUP by advancing to the NCAA tournament,” said UUP President Fred Kowal. “Win or lose, these UUP members are achievers and positive role models. UUP is proud of our members’ accomplishments and we wish them well in the NCAA tourney.”

Pikiell, Seawolves advance

Led by senior forward Jameel Warney, Stony Brook beat Vermont in the America East Conference championship game March 12 to win an automatic bid to the tournament. The Seawolves, a No. 13 seed, will take on the University of Kentucky March 17 in Des Moines, Iowa.

Pikiell, pictured above cutting down the net after Stony Brook's win, became the Seawolves' head coach in 2005. Since then, Pikiell, who went to the NCAA tournament as a player with Connecticut (1987-91), has transformed Stony Brook into a powerhouse; his teams have won more than 22 games each of the past five seasons and are 26-6 this year. This is Stony Brook’s first NCAA appearance.

UB teams beat buzzer

UB’s men’s and women’s basketball teams advanced to the NCAAs in style, each with buzzer-beater baskets to win their respective games March 12.

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Oats, above, left, who took over UB’s men’s team in April 2015, had his job cut out for him. The Bulls lost longtime head coach Bobby Hurley and the top two players from last year’s team. But Oats got the most out of his players, including junior Blake Hamilton, who sank a three-point shot from 24 feet with just two seconds left to beat the University of Akron for the Mid-American Conference championship.

The No. 14 seed Bulls (20-14) will take on Miami March 17 in Providence, R.I.

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The UB women’s team eked past Central Michigan, 73-71, to win a spot in the NCAA tournmanet for the first time in school history. Legette-Jack, above, a former Syracuse University basketball player who’s been at UB since 2012, will make her first NCAA coaching appearance. The Bulls take on Ohio State on March 18 in Columbus, Ohio.

Great Danes set record

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UAlbany’s Abrahamson-Henderson, above, led the Great Danes to their fifth consecutive conference tournament title March 11 after the women’s basketball team edged the University of Maine 59-58 to win an automatic NCAA tournament bid. UAlbany is the first team in the history of the America East conference to win five titles in a row. UAlbany will meet Florida March 18 in Syracuse.

Abrahamson-Henderson became the Great Danes’ head coach in 2010; she has helped four different programs reach the NCAA Tournament and six reach postseason play during her career. She was head coach at Missouri State University from 2002-07.

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