The Stony Brook’s men’s basketball team faced a tough test on Tuesday night, as the Seawolves hosted Western Kentucky, a strong team that is just one year removed from an NCAA Tournament appearance. Head coach Steve Pikiell wanted his team to face a challenge early in the season, and the Hilltoppers certainly provided to be that. Stony Brook proved it was ready for the test, however, as the team pulled out a 71-61 victory.
“I thought we played good basketball against a program that is very good and traditionally has been great,” Pikiell said. “They’re a good basketball team, so it’s a great win for us today.”
The Seawolves started out slowly, quickly falling down 11-1 thanks to a salvo of three pointers from the Hilltoppers. However, Stony Brook quickly roared back, tying the game with a combination of great post play from both Jameel Warney and Tyrell Sturdivant.
Western Kentucky held a small lead up to the ten-minute mark, where the Seawolves started a big run to turn the momentum of the game. The Seawolves went on a 20-5 run, sparked by both Carson Puriefoy and Roland L’Amour Nyama. It was because of this run that the Seawolves were able to head into to the locker room leading 39-29 at the half.
The Hilltoppers came out swinging in the second half, cutting the lead down to two thanks to their aggressive defensive play. Western Kentucky ran a full-court press that seemed to give the Seawolves’ offense trouble.
Stony Brook then broke through to bring the lead back to seven, but the Hilltoppers were able to force enough turnovers to knot up the score 54-54 with five minutes left.
At this time, Pikiell substituted back in Deshaun Thrower, a crucial move given how effective the two-point guard backcourt with Thrower and Puriefoy had been throughout the game. This lineup helped the Seawolves beat the full-court press, allowing Puriefoy to drop five consecutive points to give the Seawolves a big enough lead to put the Hilltoppers away with free throws.
The game featured two dominant performances from both Warney and Puriefoy.
Warney put up his sixth consecutive double-double, dating back to the end of last season. He notched 17 points and 15 rebounds, along with four big blocks, showing his dominant presence on both ends of the court.
Puriefoy led the team with 21 points, five assists and three steals.
The team also got a strong contribution from their cohort of freshmen. Both Nyama and Sturdivant helped spark a run for the Seawolves upon their entry at certain points of the game, while Thrower was part of the killer two-point guard lineup.
The Seawolves strong defensive play in the final minutes of the game proved to be key. This included two key steals from Puriefoy late in the second half that allowed Stony Brook to pull ahead of Western Kentucky for good.
“Our defense down the stretch got a couple steals, got a couple turnovers, a couple blocks,” Puriefoy said. “That’s pretty much what we’ve been preaching this whole time, is our defense wins us games, that our defense is going to take us to that next level, and I think we raised our defensive awareness down the stretch.”
SBU is now 3-2 on the season, and improves to 3-0 playing at Island FCU Arena.
The Seawolves will face off next against LIU Brooklyn on Thanksgiving day at Madison Square Garden. Tip-off is set for 4 p.m.