HEATHER KHALIFA / THE STATESMAN
Jameel Warney has been essential to the Stony Brook offense with his constant rebounding. HEATHER KHALIFA / THE STATESMAN

Stony Brook men’s basketball is heading to the America East Tournament with all the momentum the Seawolves could have hoped for after topping UMass-Lowell 75-60 and Hartford 74-59 to make it six-straight wins for SBU.

“20 wins. That’s tough to do,” Head Coach Steve Pikiell said following the UMass-Lowell victory. “I’m proud of these guys. Took care of business.”

On Wednesday night, the Seawolves stumbled out of the gates in their final regular-season home game against the River Hawks, falling behind 11-4 early. UMass-Lowell punished Stony Brook from deep, hitting three threes within the first five minutes. The River Hawks lead would be short-lived though, as SBU quickly responded with a 21-5 run.

The Seawolves collected 50 percent of available offensive rebounds and 56 percent of available defensive boards in the first half, which are astronomical rates.

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“We have two of the best rebounders in our conference,” Jameel Warney said. “We like to rebound the ball. That’s a great way for second offense when our shots aren’t falling.”

The Seawolves’ bigs would lock in on the stretched-out frontcourt of the River Hawks and hold UMass-Lowell to just five made field goals for the rest of the period following the strong start.

Offensively, Stony Brook once again found a hot hand in freshman Roland Nyama. Coming off a 22-point night against Binghamton, Nyama scored 10 points in the first half.

“Roland’s getting better and better,” Pikiell said. “When you watch the tapes, you really notice some of the things he does. He’s just getting more comfortable, he has a lot of fun out there on the court and I like that. He’s got a little swagger about him.”

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Adding to Nyama’s contribution was not just Warney’s usual dominance, but another standout performance from junior Scott King. He came off the bench firing, scoring nine points in the first half, including a four-point play.

“To Scott’s credit we called his name and he’s been ready to go,” Pikiell said. “We’re playing him at different positions too. He wasn’t really a three man, we’re kind of forcing the three spot on him a little bit. He’s really picked it up quickly in practice.”

The second half was more of the same for Stony Brook. UMass-Lowell attempted to play some zone in spots but in doing so allowed Nyama and King to knock down more threes. Eventually the River Hawks tightened their grip on the shooters, which was when Warney went to work.

“We had a nice size advantage against them,” Warney, who finished with 23 points and 12 rebounds, said. “My teammates did a great job looking for me and feeding me in spots that I can score in.”

Nyama finished with 16 points on four threes. King added 12 and Rayshaun McGrew had a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds in the victory.

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The Seawolves then traveled to Hartford for their final game of the regular season and continued the onslaught they
delivered UMass-Lowell.

From the 17:37 mark to 7:51 remaining in the first half, Stony Brook did not allow the Hawks to connect on a field goal. Hartford was without leading scorer Mark Nwakamma, who exited the game three seconds into Senior Night to rest up for the postseason. This allowed Warney to have a field day on both ends.

The end tally for Warney was 32 points, 18 rebounds and three blocks on 13-17 shooting from the field.

While the Hawks collapsed on any high-low attempt aimed at Warney in their last meeting with SBU, they did not show nearly the same pressure on Saturday night. Nyama and King’s recent shooting exploits, along with Nwakamma not playing, likely caused this scheme change, allowing Warney to play his best game of the season.

The Seawolves seized control minutes into the game with a 24-6 run and held onto it throughout. Aiding Warney in his supremacy was fellow junior Carson Puriefoy, who had his second 20-point and second 50-percent shooting game in a month’s time. Puriefoy finished with 22 points and three threes on 7-14 shooting from the field.

This contest was an impressive team effort when surveying the defensive end. The Hawks got few good looks and were relegated to 33.3 percent shooting on the night, including 5-of-24 shooting from downtown, where they normally excel. Stony Brook would coast to a 74-59 win, finishing the season with a 21-10 record, its fourth straight 20-win season and its fifth in six years.

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The Seawolves will host Binghamton in their America East Tournament quarterfinal matchup of the on Wednesday, March 4.

“We just have to keep on playing. Have to go into the playoffs with good momentum,” Warney said. “We can’t limp into the playoffs and we can’t take our first round game lightly because if we lose that then our season’s over with.”

 

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