In a tale of two antithetical performances, Stony Brook went on the road and ran Maine out of the gym in an 82-39 blowout before returning home to get trumped by Albany, 64-47.
Facing off against the Black Bears on Jan. 17, Stony Brook resembled the conference favorite many expected it to be. After a lingering first nine minutes of the contest, the Seawolves clamped down defensively and began making it rain from deep on the other end. With an 18-16 lead with 11:17 to go in the first half, Stony Brook went on a 23-0 run to close the period. Three Seawolves finished the first 20 minutes with double-digit scoring, along with two threes apiece coming from freshman Bryan Sekunda, redshirt freshman Roland L’Amour Nyama and junior Carson Puriefoy.
The second half was not dissimilar. Stony Brook outscored Maine 41-23, led by Puriefoy, who had his best game since an early-December loss to Providence. Puriefoy finished with 18 points and five assists on 11 shots, while Jameel Warney had 14 points and Nyama added 12 points and a whopping six steals.
Against Albany at home, it was a case of same Seawolves, different day for Stony Brook. The same team that sent SBU packing on their home court last March did it again last Monday in convincing fashion and without their best player, Peter Hooley, who went home due to an illness in his family.
“At the end of the day, we didn’t come to play hard,” Warney said following the 17-point loss. “Albany deserved to win this game. There were times where we wanted to play and then there were times where we didn’t want to play at all, and it showed.”
The Great Danes opened up the game on an 18-5 run, with Stony Brook making only two of its first 11 tries from the field.
“I thought we got great looks in the first five minutes tonight. Jameel had a layup and we missed a lot of free throws,” Head Coach Steve Pikiell said after the game. “I thought we were getting the right kind of looks, so I wasn’t worries about that. I told our guys at halftime, ‘if we get good looks like that I know you guys are gonna make some.’ Unfortunately it never really came.”
Stony Brook did get on a run, however. With Warney not seeing immediate double teams, he began to attack as soon as he caught the ball, leading to eight straight points of his own to spark an 11-0 run for SBU. Freshmen Deshaun Thrower and Tyrell Sturdivant were key players in this momentum swing, both making big plays on each end of the hardwood.
Thrower actually finished with the team’s best +/-, and Puriefoy played one of the worst games of his career. The junior finished with just three points on 1-9 shooting, five turnovers and a +/- of -23.
“I feel like it’s a team effort. When one man’s down, everybody else got to step up and try to finish what he’s not doing right now,” Rayshaun McGrew, who finished with a double-double, said. “[Puriefoy’s] in a small slump, he’ll get out of it because he’s a great player.”
“If [Puriefoy] has a night like this, we’re gonna struggle a little bit,” Pikiell added.
Albany’s Evan SIngletary had a field day against Puriefoy and anyone else Stony Brook threw at him, scoring 21 points and getting to the stripe 11 times. Still, Stony Brook’s first half run kept the Seawolves within striking distance at the break, trailing by just six at halftime. The Great Danes would break the game open following the latter half’s first media timeout, when they switched to a 2-3 zone.
“It shouldn’t make a difference. We’ve been seeing zone all season,” Warney said. “We saw zone last game against Maine and we did pretty good against it. I don’t know what happened today.”
What happened was Stony Brook shot just 6-18 from the field and committed eight of their 12 turnovers from that point forward. Perhaps even more staggering was that Albany outrebounded Stony Brook on the evening, making this only the fifth time a team beat the Seawolves on the glass this season.
All this allowed Albany to take a double-digit advantage and essentially ride it to the finish line. The Seawolves did have one last chance at a run, with a McGrew layup and Sekunda three closing the gap to six with under three minutes to play. The Great Danes would hold firm though, making their free throws and winning 64-47 to remain undefeated in America East play.
“We’re the youngest team in the conference, we’re the 24th youngest team in the country. We have five freshmen that play a major part of what we do. We lost four starters from last year,” Pikiell said. “We’re having a little learning process at times, but we’re pretty good and Albany’s pretty good and they got the better of us today.”