In the opening minutes of Stony Brook’s 70-60 quarterfinal victory over Binghamton on Wednesday, Lucas Woodhouse made one thing abundantly clear: he is healthy.
The spring sickness that saddled the senior guard in the final regular season games against UMBC and Vermont, in which the senior guard scored zero and three points, respectively, was long gone.
The dominant Woodhouse of January and early February was back. His first three attempts from three-point range were all makes, putting the Seawolves up 13-5 within four minutes of tip-off. Later in the first half, he added a pull-up jump shot and a couple of floaters.
By the night’s end, he had 24 points, the most he has ever recorded against an America East opponent.
“We’re a completely different team when he’s healthy,” head coach Jeff Boals said.
Woodhouse led a barrage of shooting offense in the first half. Stony Brook made seven of its first nine three-pointers in the game, taking a 29-8 advantage when redshirt freshman forward Akwasi Yeboah made a shot from the right corner, igniting the Island Federal Credit Union Arena.
“Whenever you get going like that, it makes the game fun,” Woodhouse said. “The last couple games I’ve been on the opposite end of that, so it was good to have fun again.”
Woodhouse and Boals spoke one-on-one on Sunday about his illness recovery and regaining strength for the postseason. Woodhouse said that he spent late nights this week at the arena running sprints, making sure his conditioning was where it needed to be.
“It was all about getting myself back in game shape,” he said.
In his first career playoff game, Yeboah had a stellar outing, with career-highs in both points, 21, and rebounds, 16. The freshman showed no freight on the March Madness stage, showing composure in the final minutes, shooting 9-for-10 on foul shots.
“I don’t think anyone knew how good Yeboah was,” Binghamton head coach Tommy Dempsey said. “The times I saw him, he was fantastic … 21 and 16 out of a freshman in a playoff game? Unbelievable.”
Yeboah has averaged 17 points over his last four games, after scoring fewer than two on average during the previous six contests.
“He’s really good against zones,” Boals said, referring to Yeboah’s success against Binghamton, against whom he’s had success in all three meetings this season. “I’m sure he came in with a lot of confidence. Kwasi’s happy-go-lucky. He kind of just goes out there and plays. I’m sure he didn’t feel any kind of pressure.”
Binghamton responded well to the 21-point deficit early in the contest. On several occasions late in the second half, the Bearcats cut the score to a single-digit margin. Junior guard Willie Rodriguez scored 20 points and junior forward Bobby Ahearn scored 15.
Stony Brook was able to knock down free throws when it mattered, however. Binghamton intentionally fouled senior center Jakub Petras, estimating that he would be the Seawolves player most likely to miss free throws, but Petras made five of seven foul shots.
For the eighth consecutive year, the Seawolves will play in the America East semifinals. On Monday, Stony Brook will host Albany in a rivalry game at Island Federal Credit Union Arena at 7:30 p.m.. The Seawolves beat the Great Danes in both regular season meetings, but Albany is coming off a 100-71 quarterfinal win over Hartford in which junior guard David Nichols scored 40 points.
“It’s a semifinal rivalry game. There’s nothing better,” Boals said. “I told our guys, you’ve earned the right to host this game … but that doesn’t guarantee you a win.”