The season came full circle for Jameel Warney on Wednesday night when he stepped to the line for two crucial late-game free throws.
Back in Stony Brook’s home opener against Columbia, Warney went 0-6 from the free throw line and nearly cost the Seawolves the game. On this night, he made up for what seemed like a huge blunder back in 2014 by nailing two game-sealing free throws in SBU’s 62-57 quarterfinal win over the Binghamton Bearcats.
“Knew it would be a dogfight. They’re in every game,” Head Coach Steve Pikiell said following the win. “Survive and advance. That’s what we did today. I’m real pleased with the outcome against a team that’s been playing really good basketball.”
The game became a shootout early, with Binghamton knocking down five of its first six shots and Stony Brook keeping pace with a couple of threes. The Bearcats responded to an early 8-4 SBU lead with a 7-2 run behind their full-court pressure defense.
Both teams were in double-digits by the 14-minute mark, but the game settled down as both teams’ defenses began to clamp down. Redshirt freshman Roland Nyama was all over the Bearcats, forcing turnovers by drawing charges and swiping at the ball. On the other end, Binghamton’s zone was a logjam for both Warney and the Seawolves’ shooters.
Warney attempted just four shots in the first half, heading into the break with three points.
“I always have a struggle against the Binghamton zone,” Warney said. “I just have to find ways to be aggressive and my team was doing well shooting.”
To make matters worse for the two-time America East Player of the Year, his frontcourt partner Rayshaun McGrew was forced to sit with two fouls midway through the period. Pikiell turned to a small lineup with Chris Braley at the four, but the lineup failed to score in three minutes and committed three turnovers.
“They really don’t have a true center, they really have a bunch of wing guys. With the foul trouble we thought he was a good matchup,” Pikiell said. “We can go small too. We prefer to play big but Ray was in foul trouble so we had to switch that up a little bit.”
Freshman Tyrell Sturdivant then checked in to provide a spark of five points and junior Carson Puriefoy was aggressive in looking for seams in the defense, but the offense as a whole struggled for most of the period. Stony Brook missed 12 straight field goals during one stretch and shot just 30.8 percent from the field in the first half.
“I liked the shots we were getting. I thought we had great looks,” Pikiell said. “Hard for Jameel, every time he caught it [there were] two guys on him so he can’t get shot attempts. He loves to pass anyways.”
Binghamton took advantage, heading into the halftime break with a 25-23 lead behind eight points from Willie Rodriguez. The Bearcats possessed the rebounding edge through 20 minutes and went only eight deep, while SBU played ten players.
The second half looked like a carbon copy of the first until the Seawolves went on an 14-0 run at the 17:24 mark to take a 41-30 lead, their biggest of the night. The run included a Scott King three and alley-oop slam, sending the Island crowd into a frenzy.
“That’s what [King’s] been doing for us,” Pikiell said. “He’s been been great for us coming off the bench.”
The Bearcats would respond, of course, in the form of a 7-1 run. However, Puriefoy stepped up with a 5-0 spark of his own to keep Binghamton behind by double-digits.
SBU’s defense was at its peak form throughout the second period, forcing ten Binghamton turnovers.
“Offense is the most inconsistent part of the game, we know that,” Puriefoy said. “In the playoffs we need to rely on our defense. We know we’re a great defensive team and we can rely on that when our shots aren’t falling or our offense isn’t giving us what we want. We just had to buckle down in that first half when we were missing shots and we kept it close so that we could make a run in the second half.”
Stony Brook could not pull away though, clinging on to a shallow six-point lead with just over five minutes to play. Warney then took over, finding McGrew with gorgeous passes on consecutive possessions and quickly making his quiet shooting night look obsolete. He then snatched up a big offensive rebound and scored with 2:36 to go, putting the Seawolves ahead by seven.
Marlon Beck II cut the Stony Brook lead to four on a step-back three and a Kameron Mitchell turnover led to a free throw on the other end for Binghamton, making it just a three-point game. Following four straight missed free throws from Puriefoy and McGrew, Binghamton’s Justin McFadden missed a wide open three to tie the game. Warney iced two at the line to seal the win for Stony Brook, 62-57.
“We’ve been through this a lot of times this season when we’ve been down, can’t score, but we know if we keep on sticking together we’ll be fine,” Warney said.
The Seawolves will travel to Vermont on Sunday, March 8 to try to defeat the Catamounts on their home court for the first time since the 2009-10 season.
“We can play with any team in this league,” Pikiell said. “I’m excited about going up there.”