The Seawolves led from start to finish in a 73-54 rout over LIU-Brooklyn at Madison Square Garden on Thanksgiving day. In its second-to-last NIT contest, SBU dominated on both ends of the court, with four starters scoring in double digits and its defense holding the Blackbirds to a putrid 35.1 percent shooting from the field and 9.5 percent from downtown.
“We’re getting better every day,” redshirt freshman Roland L’Amour Nyama said following the win. “The entire team is a bond of brothers and that really displays on the court.”
Stony Brook was in a tight game early, tied at seven just five minutes into the contest. A couple of minutes later leading scorer Carson Puriefoy—who scored seven of Stony Brook’s first nine points—was hit with his second foul and sat out the rest of the half.
Despite this setback, the Seawolves went on a tear. Stony Brook got on a 16-2 run that lasted about six minutes, with a rare Jameel Warney jumper and stifling team defense.
SBU did have turnover issues though, giving away ten in the first half alone which helped the Blackbirds stay within reach. With one second to play in the period, LIU-Brooklyn’s Joel Hernandez drilled a buzzer-beater off an inbounds pass to cut the Seawolves lead to just five heading into the break.
The narrow margin hardly represented the game at large, though. The Seawolves held the Blackbirds to just four free throw attempts and 1-11 shooting from deep. On the flip side, Stony Brook was shooting 53.3 percent from the field and, outside of the giveaways, seemed to be getting whatever the team wanted offensively.
In the second half, the law of averages caught up to LIU-Brooklyn. Stony Brook opened up on a 12-0 run and never looked back. Sparking the run was Nyama, who had a breakout game with career-highs in points and rebounds with 16 and eight, respectively.
“It was always a childhood dream to play at Madison Square Garden. I’ve seen it on t.v., it’s the basketball mecca, everybody wants to play here. If you don’t get motivated playing at Madison Square Garden I don’t know what game motivates you,” Nyama said. “Little things like rebounding, taking charges boosts confidence. When you get that confidence on the defensive end, offense comes naturally. That’s what I’m trying to do, be a defender first and don’t worry about the offense.”
One twist on Thursday’s gameplan was head coach Steve Pikiell running a lineup with freshman Bryan Sekunda at the two and Nyama at the three, a bigger lineup that avoids sacrificing spacing.
“I like six-six and six-six. One’s athletic as can be, the other’s a tremendous three-point shooter. Gives us big length, we never have had that,” Pikiell said of the combo. “Last year with Dave [Coley] and [Anthony Jackson,] we got shot over a lot. We held this team to 9 percent from three and I think a lot of that has to do with those extra inches on the perimeter.”
Puriefoy would pick up his third foul just 24 seconds into the latter half and his backup Deshaun Thrower would amount four fouls, but the Seawolves were just at another level on both ends of the court.
LIU-Brooklyn was held to a ghastly 26.9 percent shooting clip in the second half, while Stony Brook stormed ahead. As the game wound down, the Blackbirds switched to a zone to try and impede a raging Seawolves offense, but SBU was unfazed. The Seawolves assisted on nine of their 12 field goals in the latter half, the lead grew to as much as 21 and Stony Brook coasted to a 73-54 victory.
“We were preaching all season togetherness and sharing the ball and today we showed that and had it on display,” Jameel Warney, who finished with 18 points and nine boards on 8-9 shooting and scored his 1,000th career point on a two-handed slam, said.
The win improved SBU’s record to 4-2, but Pikiell remained reserved about his team’s play.
“Not satisfied with anything to be honest,” Pikiell said. “When you play with all young guys it’s a different hole in the boat every week. One time it’s too many fouls, one time it’s too many turnovers, one time it’s too many threes, so it is what it is, we’re still formulating this team.”
Although Stony Brook extended its winning streak to three games, one Seawolf saw a streak cut short. Warney fell one rebound shy of his sixth straight double-double of the season.
“Ray[shaun McGrew] was big on the boards, Roland was big on the boards,” Warney said.
“I guess I was being generous on Thanksgiving.”