by Drew Ciampa and Jason Mazza
Almost a week removed from the program’s biggest victory in its 54-year history, the Stony Brook men’s basketball team returned home to take on the New Hampshire Wildcats. Using both confidence from their previous win and a fundamentally sound second half, the Seawolves earned their first conference win of the year, 71-61.
“I thought we did a good job overcoming a lot of different things,” Head Coach Steve Pikiell said. “We grinded out a win.”
Six days and a 3,000 mile trip home did not stop the Seawolves from putting forward a great effort, and it certainly did not stop the crowd of 3,224 at Island FCU Arena from acknowledging the team’s recent accomplishment.
With the players being announced, the crowd gave a round of applause, offering them a warm welcome home. Halftime featured highlights from the victory over Washington playing on the big screen. Fans stood and cheered, seemingly thanking the team and letting the Seawolves know how proud they were.
“Great crowd, I thank the community for coming out. I thought they gave us great energy today,” Pikiell said.
Riding high off the milestone victory, the Stony Brook players needed to keep their composure and focus. Sometimes, it is difficult to do so after such an emotional win. However, the players seemed to understand the situation and knew how to handle themselves.
“It’s a blessing and a curse. We now have the confidence that we can beat any team in our league,” junior forward Jameel Warney said when asked about the effects of the win at Washington. “But also it puts a target on our back now that we beat an AP-ranked team.”
Warney’s performance on Saturday afternoon clearly underscores the reality of his comments. Fending off a letdown game after Washington, Warney put up 22 points with 10 rebounds, earning his 12th double-double of the season.
Rayshaun McGrew complemented Warney nicely as he also registered a double-double with 14 points and 12 rebounds. With New Hampshire focusing on stopping Warney, having McGrew’s production was important to Stony Brook’s success.
“He’s been a double-double guy, as much as Jameel has been, he’s been right behind him,” Pikiell said, “a great teammate and comes to work every day. He’s got a great work ethic, real pleased with his development.”
The Seawolves also followed their season-long pattern of dominating the rebound battle yet again, as they went +21 on the glass Saturday.
For New Hampshire, which leads the conference in offensive and defensive points per game, it was sophomore Daniel Dion and freshman Tanner Leissner who did the majority of the scoring. Dion made his mark by hitting five three-pointers and totaling 19 points, while Leissner had six boards in addition to his 13 points.
The Wildcats struggled from the free throw line, hitting only 63.6 percent. Moreover, they failed to score from the field in the last 5:07 of the game. Credit the Stony Brook defense for holding off the top offense and asserting their defensive presence.
On Tuesday night, Stony Brook men’s basketball capped off its non-conference schedule with a 70-61 victory against the Columbia Lions at Levien Gymnasium in Manhattan. It was the Seawolves’ second win against the Lions this season. On Nov. 14, Stony Brook beat Columbia 57-56 in a dramatic last-minute put back by McGrew.
The win improved the Seawolves to 10-6 on the season.
Warney finished the game with 25 points on 12-16 shooting, 13 rebounds (six offensive) and two blocks, completing his Division 1-leading 13th double-double. He also entered the game leading the country with 12.3 rebounds per game.
Juniors McGrew and Carson Puriefoy also scored in the double-digits for the Seawolves with 15 and 13, respectively.
Columbia has been led all season by junior guard Maodo Lo, who entered Tuesday’s contest ranked 56th in the country with 17.8 points per game. However, he was only able to score seven points, making two of nine shots from the field. He scored 19 in the first matchup between the two teams.
Originally, Stony Brook was supposed to play Columbia only once this season as part of a two-year home-and-home series. That changed when Pikiell asked Columbia to play in the inaugural game at Island FCU Arena. In return for the favor, the Seawolves would add a game at Columbia later on in the season.
Stony Brook continues its road trip this Saturday, as the Seawolves will head to Burlington to face the University of Vermont Catamounts, who stand at 5-8 on the year. The Catamounts are currently on a four-game losing streak.