Redshirt-junior guard Akwasi Yeboah with the ball in the game against Albany on Thursday. Despite a losing game, Yeboah led all Seawolves as he recorded 22 points and 12 rebounds for his ninth double-double of the season. EMMA HARRIS/THE STATESMAN

Stony Brook Men’s Basketball was positioned to cut its standings deficit to half a game behind Vermont, following the Golden Retrievers victory over the conference-leading Vermont Catamounts. On its own, Thursday’s game was surrounded in fanfare as Stony Brook was facing its adversarial in-state rival UAlbany at home. Students held up giant red signs sporting the phrase “Defend the Island,” yet the Seawolves failed to do so, dropping a heartbreaker to the Great Danes, 74–70.

“I told our guys, ‘We can’t let this game lose our game on Saturday night,’” head coach Jeff Boals said after the game. “We’ve got a quick turnaround. We have to regroup, refresh and stay positive, stay together and come out on Saturday night and play better. You never want to lose to your rivals, but in the grand scheme of things, where we’re at, being 9–2 and losing a home game really hurts.”

While Stony Brook led for less than two minutes of total game time, it remained competitive even as the final minutes wound down. However, free throw struggles sealed its fate as the team shot 47 percent from the line in the second half.

With 6:08 remaining in the game, redshirt-sophomore guard Andrew Garcia missed both foul shots with the opportunity to pull Stony Brook to within seven. Four minutes later, Garcia again failed to knock down either with the chance to cut the deficit to four.

“We shot ourselves with free throws,” Garcia said after the loss. “I missed six … We’re usually a free-throw team, and it’s something that could have won us the game that we don’t usually look at. We didn’t execute today.”

UAlbany did not make a single field goal in the final six and a half minutes of the game, creating a path for a potential Stony Brook comeback from an 11-point deficit. With just over a minute remaining, sophomore forward Elijah Olaniyi stripped UAlbany redshirt-freshman guard Cameron Healy of the ball and raced to the basket for the dunk, cutting the Great Danes’ lead to 69–65.

On the ensuing possession, Great Danes junior guard Ahmad Clark was fouled and only made one of two, bringing the lead back up to five. Olaniyi was fouled on a putback attempt but missed the first free throw, keeping it at a two-possession game.

Healy was sent to the line and converted both to extend UAlbany’s lead to 72–66. With 16 seconds left, freshman guard Miles Latimer was hit as he attempted a three, yet he sank just two of three free throw attempts, failing to make it a one-possession game. The shots were the closest Stony Brook got to regaining the lead.

UAlbany started the game off hot, knocking down four shots from three before the first media timeout. Healy, who led all scorers with 24 points, racked up 11 in the first five minutes of the contest. Redshirt-junior guard Akwasi Yeboah scored Stony Brook’s first eight points, but both playmakers were quieted as the half went on. The two teams went back and forth until a nine-point run handed the Great Danes a 34–25 lead.

Stony Brook whittled the deficit down to three by halftime and came out of the break strong to take a 39–38 lead with 17:20 remaining; it would be the last time the Seawolves were on top in the game.

Coming off a New Hampshire game where Stony Brook surrendered 43 percent shooting from behind the arc, the struggle to contain UAlbany’s longball threats allowed the Great Danes several open looks and converting 41 percent of their attempts. Healy and freshman guard Antonio Rizzuto combined for nine of UAlbany’s 11 threes. In comparison, Stony Brook shot 5-for-22 on the deep ball.

“We knew [UAlbany’s] three-guards were three-point heavy shooters,” Boals said. “It was a big key for us coming in. Healy did it in the first half, and Rizzuto did it in the second half, and when guys have it going like that, you have to have a little more sense of urgency… We didn’t quite have that.”

In the losing effort, Yeboah led all Seawolves as he recorded 22 points and 12 rebounds for his ninth double-double of the season. Despite his struggles at the line, Garcia still finished with 14 points on 5-for-7 shooting. Three UAlbany players scored double-digits, including Healy’s 24, Rizzuto’s 18 and junior forward Kendall Lauderdale’s 17. Lauderdale entered the matchup averaging 2.9 points per game.

“[I could have been] more solid on defense,” Yeboah said after the game. “We all know things we did that we could have done better. It’s just a matter of looking over the film and correcting those little errors we all made.”

Stony Brook will look to rebound from Thursday’s tough loss on Saturday, Feb. 23 against Maine, the second game of a three-game homestead. The game is scheduled to start at 7 p.m. at Island Federal Credit Union Arena.