After Stony Brook Men’s Basketball’s 73-66 loss to Columbia, redshirt junior forward Roland Nyama stated that the Seawolves were going to defend the America East Championship. It was a bold proclamation, especially for a team that was ranked seventh out of nine teams in the conference preseason poll. Three games – all losses – later and the statement was almost laughable — how could Stony Brook defend its title if it continually gets blown out?
The fifth game of the season, in neutral territory against Hampton, looked as if it would be the same. The Seawolves were down 36-26 at halftime. They never led throughout the first half and Pirates guards Jermaine Marrow and Lawrence Cooks were both in double figures scoring and showed no signs of slowing down.
Stony Brook head coach Jeff Boals was frustrated. He signed a contract to coach a team that was coming off an NCAA berth, not one that was going 0-5 to start the season.
“As a coach, sometimes if you play well and you play the right way you can accept the outcome,” Boals said. “But when you don’t put the effort and attitude into it, you can’t accept it.”
Senior guard Lucas Woodhouse scored all 17 of his points in a second half comeback to secure the first win of the season. It was a signature Stony Brook moment harkening back to the Steve Pikiell era. After all, last season’s championship-winning squad was a second half team, even coming back from a 36-27 halftime deficit to win the America East title.
Fast forward to Jan. 5 in Durham, New Hampshire. The Seawolves found themselves down 26-19 at halftime against the No. 2 team in the preseason poll, the Wildcats. This time, Nyama and junior forward Tyrell Sturdivant took over, combining for 28 of Stony Brook’s 40 points in the second half.
In its second conference game against Albany, Stony Brook had its greatest comeback of all time, going on a 21-0 run in the second half to squeak away with a 72-70 win off of Sturdivant’s buzzer-beating layup. The run capped a 48-point second half for the Seawolves, the most points they have scored in a half this season.
In five of Stony Brook’s America East wins, the team has trailed at halftime. All five featured 40-plus-point second halves.
“It only helps our team and helped me,” Woodhouse said of the late-game runs. “It gives our team experience, especially being a young team. It’s good to play in those games because March is a crazy time.”
The comeback wins and second half efforts are a testament to the team’s mentality. Rather than focusing on the big picture, Boals and his team have a one-game at a time mentality. Each opponent is the team’s most important.
“Every game is an opportunity for us to get better,” Woodhouse said. That mindset has proved fruitful. Halfway through the season, Stony Brook has exceeded expectations by being 10-2 in conference play and No. 2 in the America East.
After the team’s 83-72 win against UMass Lowell on Monday, Nyama repeated his claim from the season-opening loss against Columbia. The Seawolves were going to try and defend the America East championship. With a 9-2 conference record, it became a lot more believable.
“After the Boston College game, I told our guys that our goal wasn’t to be 0-2 or 2-0,” Boals said. “It was to win the America East and play in the NCAA Tournament.”
The players have bought into that mentality. Rather than resting on their laurels, the Seawolves play each game like it’s their last.
“We’re still levelheaded,” Sturdivant said. “We haven’t won anything yet. It’s good to be second in the conference, but our goal is to win another championship. We all believe we can do it.”