By David Vertsberger and Andrew Eichenholz
Point #1: The Stony Brook men’s basketball team needs to figure out how to beat Vermont.
The Seawolves are now 0-2 against Vermont on the season after losing their latest matchup with the Catamounts on Saturday, 57-48. If Stony Brook wants to reach its first NCAA Tournament, the Seawolves will likely have to top this conference foe come March.
One of the biggest advantages Vermont has over SBU is Ethan O’Day, the lanky 6-foot-9-inch forward who has had little trouble scoring on the Seawolves. O’Day scored 16 points on 12 shots in his first meeting with Stony Brook and added 17 points on Saturday. He has lots of length, a great touch in the post, range and quickness. He is essentially Jameel Warney’s kryptonite, meaning SBU may have to go about different means of covering him.
Then there is Vermont’s defense, the 43rd-best in the country according to kenpom. In their first meeting, the Seawolves got 26 points out of Warney, but just 31 points on 9-37 shooting from the rest of the squad.
On Saturday, only Warney and Carson Puriefoy scored in double-digits and they only shot 12-32 combined doing so. If Stony Brook wants to top this Vermont squad, they need the stars and some of the role players to make shots.
Point #2: Jessica Ogunnorin can be a difference maker for the Stony Brook women’s team.
When Stony Brook beat Albany to end the Great Danes’ 38-game America East winning streak in the last contest of last year’s regular season, it was Jessica Ogunnorin who made the difference. Scoring a then-career-high 18 points, she showed quite a variety of tools at her disposal.
She can get in the lane, shoot and rebound as well. To tell the truth, she can do just about anything on the floor and may be the most athletic player on the team. But, she has not done so game in and game out like Seawolves fans see from classmate Sabre Proctor.
That does not mean, however, that as the games get more and more important as the America East tournament arrives, that she cannot change that. For the first time since conference play began, Ogunnorin led the team in rebounding against New Hampshire with 11 and did it again against Vermont by snatching 15.
If she can get her scoring going, Stony Brook will be a dangerous team come tournament time.
Point #3: Ryan Burnett making positive impact as a starter.
After rarely coming onto the court through Stony Brook’s first 20 games, Ryan Burnett has started for the Seawolves in each of their last five games, replacing freshman Bryan Sekunda.
This wing slot has now seen three suitors, with Burnett being the latest. Stony Brook is 3-2 since the change, but that record says little about what this switch does for the team. Burnett’s rotation is often the first few minutes of the contest, then the final few minutes of the first half followed by the opening minutes of the second.
From what we have seen, he is a stupendous leaper that corrals offensive boards as if he were in a zero-gravity environment. His shooting has been streaky, but his effort level and length defensively has made him useful as a catch-all wing instead of a specialist.
Outside of Burnett, this move has allowed Head Coach Steve Pikiell to play shooters Kameron Mitchell and Sekunda together in recent games, providing lineups with all the spacing they could have asked for.
Whether or not Burnett remains a starter is left to chance. We may even see freshman Deshaun Thrower starting at some point in the future. It is too early to tell one way or another, but this deep into the season, Pikiell is not afraid to keep experimenting with his squad.
Point #4: Stony Brook’s women’s team needs to take things one game at a time.
Not one team in the America East wants to deal with Albany. Annually one of the best mid-major programs in America, they are extremely tough to beat. Stony Brook learned that the hard way last year, getting thumped following its huge win over the Great Danes preceding the tournament.
That is why every game the rest of the way matters so much. Head Coach Caroline McCombs would probably say that the Seawolves are taking it one game at a time anyway, and they certainly will not take whoever their opponent is in the first round of the America East Tournament lightly, but they would prefer to potentially have to play Albany in the finals rather than have a semifinal matchup looming over their head.
The Seawolves are just one game behind Hartford, who broke their hearts in a battle at Island Federal Credit Union Arena on Jan. 25, but earning that third seed back from the Hawks will, in the long run. be of the utmost importance in hopes of a playoff run.