Just six games into the new season, Stony Brook Men’s Basketball has separated itself from last year’s team with a 91-77 win over Princeton on Saturday. The Seawolves lost a nine-point lead to the Tigers when their opponents went on a 17-2 run late in last December’s game to win, 77-64. But this time, Stony Brook responded to a 9-0 Princeton spark to begin the second half with a 17-5 push of its own to secure the win.
“Just focus,” senior forward Jameel Warney said he told his teammates when Princeton climbed within striking distance. “They started off amazing in the second half and we came out lackadaisical, so I told them just keep focused, it’s a long second half. They made their run, now let’s go back to playing basketball.”
Princeton did its best to deny Warney the ball throughout the game, even double-teaming him on every touch.
Despite this, the big man finished with 26 points on 11-of-14 shooting, 15 rebounds, five assists and a career-high with nine blocks,. He even pulled a rare turnaround jumpshot over two defenders out of his arsenal in the performance.
In prior years, Stony Brook has struggled to find its offense when opposing teams collapsed on Warney, but not today.
“It’s great to have [senior forward Rayshaun McGrew] who’s a great short corner jump-shooter, and all the shooters around me, so I can trust them with the ball and just pick and choose my spots,” Warney said.
McGrew scored 18 points on 8-of-10 shooting and collected seven boards in the win after learning his mother passed away from the effects of cancer just prior to shootaround.
“First thing I did, I talked to a couple of my teammates, let them know,” McGrew said. “Talked to coach. He asked me, was I able to still play the game? I didn’t want to let the team down, because we worked hard all week. We had a long week preparing for Princeton, not going to just throw it all away and not be able to help my team win.”
Princeton entered the game with a 4-0 record, but shot just 36.5 percent from the field and 29.4 percent on 3-pointers. The Tigers’ leading scorer, junior forward Henry Caruso, was held to 5-of-13 shooting from the field.
The Seawolves saw one of their own stars struggle in senior guard Carson Puriefoy. He finished with five turnovers and shot just 1-of-8 from the field. Junior guard Ahmad Walker got into foul trouble, but Stony Brook’s role players produced in a big way.
Sophomore wing Bryan Sekunda aided in Stony Brook’s 63.5 percent shooting effort with 12 points and redshirt sophomore forward Roland Nyama had 15 points. Nyama scored all 15 in the second half, coming off the bench after regularly starting last season.
“He was really good today, really helped us and down the stretch, made huge free throws for us,” head coach Steve Pikiell said of Nyama. “I really liked our bench production today.”
Stony Brook opened the game hot, hitting seven of its first eight shots and shooting 73.1 percent from the field in the first half.The Seawolves cooled off when the Tigers went to a 1-3-1 zone, which forced nine Stony Brook first-half turnovers.
An 11-3 run capped by a Warney tip-in at the 5:46 mark gave the Seawolves an 11-point edge, which they took into halftime. After Princeton cut the deficit to two a minute and 34 seconds into the second half, Stony Brook went on its run and closed the game out at the free throw stripe.
Pikiell’s team also controlled Princeton in the rebounding department, winning the battle of the board 41-28.
The Seawolves have now won three straight games, and will hit the road to take on Notre Dame on Tuesday at 9 p.m.
The Fighting Irish were eliminated in last year’s Elite Eight, and two of that team’s players are now on NBA rosters.
Notre Dame is 5-2 on the young season, coming off of a comeback 84-79 win over Illinois last Wednesday in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge.