The Great Danes (2-0) will play a semifinal Thursday, while the Lady Lions (1-1) move to the consolation round.
Winners of three straight America East conference titles, Albany took a 53-50 lead with 1:49 remaining on a jumper by Shereesha Richards. Penn State knotted it at 53-all with 1:28 to go on a 3-pointer by Jenny DeGraaf, and both teams went cold as the stress mounted. With 9 seconds left, Great Danes point guard Sarah Royals hit one of two free throws to make it 54-53.
Penn State called a timeout and got a shot for Candace Agee, but it failed to drop, securing the win for Albany. Richards closed with 27 points and 14 rebounds; Imani Tate contributed six points and a career-high 15 rebounds.
Albany did not look to be a candidate for an upset when the game began, going scoreless for almost four minutes at the start. The Great Danes missed 12 of their first 14 shots, but with the Lady Lions having their own issues, Albany took a 16-14 lead with 7:56 to go in the half.
Richards had 11 points and rebounds at the break; Penn State had the game tied at 28-all, but it also had four players with three fouls. The Lady Lions got 14 points on the night from Lindsey Spann, and DeGraaf added 12 points.
Both teams struggled with turnovers, but Albany kept in range thanks to a 49-31 edge in rebounding.