BASIL JOHN / THE STATESMAN
Despite efforts from Carson Puriefoy and the rest of the men’s basketball team, Vermont pulled away with the lead and eventually beat the Seawolves 57-48 on Saturday night. BASIL JOHN / THE STATESMAN

Following a week free of games, Stony Brook jumped out to one of its most impressive halves of the season before playing perhaps the worst 20 minutes of its campaign in a 57-48 home loss to Vermont.

“It was the tale of two halves,” Head Coach Steve Pikiell said following the loss. “I thought we played great in the first half and then obviously they played great in the second half and we didn’t have enough to win down the stretch. Our effort was good, you have to make some shots and they made every one in the second half. Hard to beat a team that’s shooting the ball like that.”

SBU had the Catamounts on the ropes early, with Vermont calling a timeout just two minutes into the contest after a quick 4-0 spurt by the Seawolves. Hector Harold picked up two early fouls and Vermont could not find the bottom of the net whatsoever.

The Catamounts made just one of their first 13 tries from the field and picked up five team fouls by the midpoint of the first half. Stony Brook’s defense was beyond stifling, precise and ferocious. All five players on the court were hyperactive every trip down and the Catamounts could not find an open look.

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Vermont went into halftime with a scoring rate of .469 points per possession. That number is astoundingly low, especially from an offense that had so much success against SBU in the two teams’ previous meeting.

The only thing holding Stony Brook back from a tremendous lead was its own offense. Vermont fronted Jameel Warney effectively and applied too much pressure for the high-low pass to come through.

Warney still got his low-post touches, but shot just 4-14 from the field in the first half.

“I thought we could have had a bigger lead, I was really disappointed at some of our turnovers and some of our missed open shots,” Pikiell said. “I thought Jameel got a ton of open looks that he normally converts for us.”

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Junior Rayshaun McGrew was relatively silent offensively, but Carson Puriefoy looked like his usual self with an eight-point first half on smart takes to the basket.

As a whole, Stony Brook shot 31.6 percent from the field in the first half, but only knocked down a single three in the first 20 minutes.

Despite this, the Seawolves carved out a 14-point lead at the break that extended to 17 at the 14:30 mark of the second half.

Then, the tables turned.

“Their defense is so good, they usually hold teams to 15 in a half. We knew we’d have a struggle to score tonight, just because everyone struggles against them to score,” Pikiell said. “To be honest I was surprised we had 29 at halftime. I knew a drought would come because of their defense.”

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This drought lasted the entirety of the game and manifested itself in a 36-10 run for Vermont.

Stony Brook made just four of its next 19 attempts from the field and turned the ball over eight times in the latter half compared to just three giveaways in the first. Its offense completely stalled and Vermont capitalized on the other end with a 42-point half on 72.7 percent shooting from the field.

“We had great effort, we just couldn’t make shots. Like coach said, tale of two halves,” Warney, who finished with 14 points and 15 boards, said. “Hats-off to them, they’re a good team. They shot very well in the second half and we couldn’t score.”

This enormous run only secured the lead for Vermont at the 5:44 mark on an Ethan O’Day jumper. O’Day scorched Warney and the Seawolves down the stretch with 12 points in the final 10 minutes.

“He can drive, he can shoot, but when it was winning time he delivered and I didn’t,” Warney said. “We’ll get better, we’ll be in that moment again and we’ll be successful.”

Stony Brook was still within reach come crunch time, though. With under a minute to go, Vermont had possession with a three-point advantage.

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Cam Ward ran a pick-and-pop with O’Day at the top of the key, with Brandon Hatton, who finished with 12 points, sitting in the right corner. Redshirt freshman Roland Nyama, who was on Hatton, sprinted to the middle of the floor to check O’Day, leaving Hatton open for the dagger three.

“We made a mistake on that,” Pikiell said. “[Nyama] helped a little bit too much. He’s also supposed to do two things on that play: he’s supposed to bump high and then he’s supposed to recover and he was a little late on that. At that time they were already feeling it.”

Vermont knocked down its free throws to secure the 57-48 win. No Seawolf outside of Warney or Puriefoy finished with more than four points.

“I think everybody we have is extremely capable. We just had an off night in the second half. We trust our team, we trust our teammates,” Puriefoy said. “They’re all good players, we just have to keep feeding them the ball in their spots and they’re going to hit shots.”

The Seawolves now drop to 6-4 in America East play, good for fourth in the conference and 15-10 overall.

“Obviously it’s a letdown, but our confidence isn’t shattered by any means. I think we can learn from this and come back stronger,” Puriefoy said.

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