In a game where the Stony Brook men’s basketball team dominated the entire first half, Stony Brook was unable to ride its momentum into the second half against Ball State and lost 87-76 at Worthen Arena in Muncie, Indiana. The team falls to 0-2 on the road and 0-3 overall.
The Seawolves found a spark early on offense, getting production from a number of players. Senior forward Junior Saintel had a double-double with 16 points and 10 rebounds, including a team-high 13 first-half points. Saintel powered his way to the rim with ease, throwing down dunks and forcing fouls. Sophomore guard Michael Almonacy and redshirt-sophomore forward Akwasi Yeboah both drilled a pair of threes to stretch the floor in the opening minutes. The Seawolves took a 42-34 lead into halftime.
The lead they built in the first half felt comfortable, but Stony Brook let Ball State stay in the game by committing 11 turnovers and 11 fouls in the half. The fouls especially hurt Stony Brook, as key players like freshman guard Jordan McKenzie and freshman forward Elijah Olaniyi earned an early high personal foul count. McKenzie and Olaniyi were limited to 10 and 12 minutes, respectively.
McKenzie’s foul trouble, combined with an 0-4 shooting night for sharpshooter senior guard Bryan Sekunda, opened the door for Almonacy to earn more minutes. Almonacy tied a collegiate-high 29 minutes played and collected 10 points and three rebounds in the game.
The fouls continued to mount in the second half. The Cardinals shot 79 percent from the free-throw line overall in seven more attempts than the Seawolves. Saintel and senior forward Jakub Petras found their way into foul trouble, hurting the Seawolves’ depth and forcing them to play with three guards instead of two, as they had in the first half.
Ball State’s offense picked up with the shift in personnel, and no Cardinal responded better than junior guard Tayler Persons. Persons scored 29 points, 17 of which came in the second half, and hit 12 of his 18 shots, including two threes.
As Ball State’s offense came alive, Stony Brook went cold. Senior guard UC Iroegbu became the sole threat, scoring 15 of his 18 points in the second half, the most he’s had since transferring into the program last year. Despite hitting each of his three attempts from beyond the arc, senior forward Tyrell Sturdivant struggled to get open looks and didn’t have a field goal in the second half.
Head coach Jeff Boals utilized a 2-3 zone defensively around the 31-minute mark whenever Stony Brook had an opportunity to set its defense. The Seawolves do not normally use the zone in their game plan, but Boals opted to run it to neutralize Ball State’s penetrating style of play. It was too late at that point. Ball State took a 64-63 lead with 7:38 left to play and never lost it.
The loss to Ball State is a disappointing step in a tough opening stretch for Stony Brook, which included losses to Maryland and UConn. Next, the Seawolves will travel to East Lansing, Michigan to take on one of the nation’s premier programs, No. 2 Michigan State. The Spartans are coming off a loss to top-ranked Duke on Tuesday.
The Seawolves and Spartans will face off on Sunday, Nov 19 at 4 p.m. The two programs have never faced each other before.