The Stony Brook men’s basketball team’s season came to end in the America East Conference Tournament for the second consecutive season, falling to No. 1-seeded Vermont 70-51 Tuesday night at Patrick Gym.
Freshman forward Elijah Olaniyi and redshirt-sophomore forward Akwasi Yeboah built off the first half’s momentum the Seawolves ended with, leading the offensive charge in the first few minutes of the second half. The duo was able to cut the Catamounts’ lead to four, but they responded with an 11-2 run and eventually led by 19 points during the latter end of the half.
“I’m really proud of our team,” head coach Jeff Boals said. “For the whole year, they played hard and competed. They did what we asked them to do, and when you look at our season and our record, I don’t think it was indicative of how our season went. The last three weeks, we’ve been playing at a high level. Credit our guys for coming to work every day and staying positive.”
Both the Catamounts and the Seawolves were misfiring from the start, with a combined four turnovers and eight missed shots in the first few minutes of the game. Despite their struggles, the Seawolves held a 5-4 lead at the first media timeout five minutes into the game.
That was the last time Stony Brook would lead.
Vermont used a 10-2 run following the timeout to gain an eight-point advantage. However, Stony Brook would not go away lightly. The team battled against Vermont all throughout the first half and kept the game within two possessions for a majority of the first 20 minutes, and after some solid defensive plays, the team trailed by single digits heading into the locker room.
“We probably played one of our worst 20 minutes and were only down nine at halftime,” Boals said. “We could just never get over the hump. When you play a good team, you gotta go get it. They aren’t just going to give it to you. We could never get that score-stop-score that we needed to get back in the game like we’ve been getting lately.”
Foul trouble was a major issue for Stony Brook throughout the night. Senior forwards Jakub Petras and Tyrell Sturdivant both fouled out in their final games as Seawolves. Senior guard UC Iroegbu, senior forward Junior Saintel and Olaniyi each had four fouls.
The constant fouls on the Seawolves led to the Catamounts taking 37 free throw shots, making 29 of them in the process. Vermont senior forward Drew Urquhart had a game-high 19 points, with 11 of them coming from the charity stripe.
“It’s tough whenever you’re in the double bonus or bonus with 15 minutes left in the second half,” Boals said. “I thought we guarded their actions, but the fouling was a problem. They’re not going to lose a lot of game shooting 37 free throws.”
Stony Brook will have five seniors leaving the team due to graduation, but the young core of the team showed promise for the future Tuesday night. Yeboah led the team with 15 points, Olaniyi chipped in 13 points and freshman guard Jordan McKenzie scored 11 points. While still young, the team knows that they will get better with each passing day.
“Yeah, no doubt,” Yeboah said when asked about beating Vermont in the future. “We have a great coaching staff that work with us every day, so I have no doubt that we are going to be a great team. Just have to keep working.”
Stony Brook finished the season with a 13-19 overall record and a 7-9 record in conference play. The team has made the America East semifinals for the last nine seasons, so Boals is confident with the team he has for the future.
“I really like the future that we have,” Boals said. “Obviously, we have some things we have to get better. We’re gonna be young next year, but that’s the beauty of these guys. They want to work to keep getting better. To see them come into this environment and have the success they had, it’s encouraging.”