“I gotta get out of here.”
Those were the last words Dave Coley fought to get of his system as tears began flowing following a brutal defeat at the hands of Albany, 69-60.
A win on this Saturday afternoon would have given the Seawolves their first America East championship and their first bid to the NCAA tournament. Several times throughout the contest at Pritchard Gym, it seemed this conclusion looked all but inevitable.
Stony Brook opened up on a 9-0 run in just under three minutes of action, led by Jameel Warney’s five early points. Warney was then subbed out of the game along with Carson Puriefoy, which sparked six straight points by Albany that was the platform of an 18-4 run. Warney would not score for the rest of the first half.
In regard to his inactivity for most of the first half, Warney said, “That’s on my part. I gotta be a better player and just try to be aggressive at all times.”
Albany was able to successfully shut down Stony Brook’s high-low offense with their zone, giving no leeway to the rack. The Seawolves attempted just six free throws in the first period, Warney putting up just one field goal after the 17-minute mark.
“They swarm around him and the other team’s job is to not let him get the ball. Sometimes it’s tough, I wish we could get him 20-25 touches but when they collapse on him like that it’s a little more difficult,” coach Steve Pikiell said. “Our ineffectiveness to make shots really hurts him in the post.”
The Seawolves were unable to make anything connect from behind the arc, shooting 0-4 from three in the first half.
“We just didn’t make shots,” said Pikiell. “I wish we had, we were 2-14 from three… When you’re not making shots it makes it more difficult to get the ball inside.”
On the other end, Albany’s DJ Evans made five of his first seven looks for 12 points before Coley picked him up on defense. Such was the theme throughout the night and season. Whichever Great Dane was scoring efficiently from the backcourt, Coley would glue himself to said scorer’s jersey. Evans was one for six from the field after his hot start.
Rayshaun McGrew’s continued impressive play was apparent once again, helping Stony Brook retake the lead with seven and a half minutes remaining in the half. The two clubs then went back-and-forth, with Albany ahead 34-31 at halftime.
After a six-minute span where both teams were neck and neck, the Seawolves went on a 10-0 run behind Coley’s circus and-one. Warney got more touches down low, with improved entry passes that were not being thrown hesitantly.
Puriefoy also began getting into his flow after an invisible first half, shooting 0-1 from the field and giving the ball away twice. Stony Brook’s hero against Hartford notched 12 points in the latter half on 4-9 shooting. However, he committed two more turnovers.
Normally a sound ball handler, Puriefoy did not have control of his dribble all game long, constantly losing the basketball even when unforced.
“Handle was just a little off today,” Puriefoy said after the game. “Had a tough time handling the ball today. It’s not anything that’s crazy, it’s just the ball and my hands didn’t mesh today.”
The Great Danes responded with an 8-0 run of their own, only to be answered by the Seawolves scoring eight straight.
“It’s a game of runs,” Pikiell said. “We start off 9-0, then they go on a run and then we go on a run and then they go on a run.”
Going well for the Seawolves in this half was their aggressiveness. Albany allows a lower free throw to field goal rate than any other team in the conference, yet Stony Brook took 12 shots from the charity stripe in the final 20 minutes.
“We tried to attack them a little bit more. Once we weren’t making jump shots we wanted to get the ball inside,” Pikiell said. “They’re smart, they don’t foul, they just body up on you and force you to take tough shots over them.”
Worth noting is Warney’s night at the line, where he made 5-6 free throws despite his career 57.5 percent clip.
A tie game with three minutes to go, Albany’s John Puk made two free throws to give his squad the one possession edge. A Coley runner rimmed out, which opened the door for Peter Hooley – who scored 28 points per game in Albany’s first two tournament contests – to drive in for the scoop layup.
A Puriefoy floater cut Stony Brook’s deficit back to two with 90 seconds remaining, but Hooley would secure the victory with a three-pointer over a stumbling and falling Puriefoy.
“He drove right, hit me with a shoulder, caught me off balance,” Puriefoy said of the decisive play. “I fell and I was out of the play so he had a wide open shot. He made a good move, I lost my balance.”
A missed Anthony Jackson jumper that would cap his poor 2-8 shooting performance just about ended the season for the Seawolves. Albany free throws would put the game away for good, much to the delight of their fans – who stormed the court as the buzzer sounded.
The Seawolves have much to be proud of, and a lot to look forward to. But Coley expressed the true tone of the team and the university when he let his emotions get the better of him at the post-game presser. Stony Brook fans cannot wait to put the memory of this game behind them.