The crowd rose to their feet as sophomore guard Michael Almonacy dribbled the basketball out to half court. The cheers rained down from Island Federal Credit Union Arena as the Stony Brook men’s basketball team earned their first win of the season on Wednesday and defeated Brown 77-64.
Almonacy and the Seawolves bench played a crucial part in the victory, outscoring the Bears bench 38-19. Almonacy in particular had a strong performance, scoring 13 points and picking up a team-high seven rebounds. The ball found him often late in the game, as he scored the team’s final six points.
“He’s playing at a great pace right now,” head coach Jeff Boals said regarding Almonacy. “Not trying to force things, taking what’s given to him… He hit some big free throws down the stretch to extend the lead.”
The win snapped a four-game losing streak since the start of the season, all on the road or at a neutral site, and Almonacy credited their tough schedule against top tier opponents with readying them for the home opener.
“The schedule prepared us for the game today,” Almonacy said. “We played a lot of the top teams in the country, and we went 0-4. We didn’t want it to go like that. We wanted to win a game tonight, and I think just the home energy and our energy today helped us win.”
One of the faults Stony Brook had during its losing streak was dominating the first half only to concede leads in the second half, and for a brief time it appeared like that would be the case on Wednesday as well. Stony Brook led the game for over 16 minutes in the first half, and took a 38-33 lead into halftime. However, within five minutes the Bears tied the game and were within three points until there was 9:07 left to play.
The bench took over the game from this point, and among them was a welcome sight for the Seawolves. Junior guard Jaron Cornish had his season debut against Brown, returning from a knee injury that held him out for the first road trip. Cornish scored four points, three rebounds and two assists in 10 minutes.
“You look at Jaron Cornish coming, he’s a different player for us,” Boals said. “He gives us a different dimension. He was out for about a month, practiced two days, and this was his first game he’s played here. He blocked a jump shot on [sophomore guard Brandon] Anderson, pushed the basketball, he’s just a different athlete for us and helps us out.”
Senior guard UC Iroegbu led the Seawolves with 14 points, finding success driving to the basket as well as shooting from deep. After the game, he reflected on the early results from the season culminating in Wednesday’s win.
“We know, even in some of the games we lost, to be honest we could easily be 3-2 if not better,” Iroegbu said. “But, yeah it’s always nice to get that first win and get that weight off your shoulders, monkey off your back a little bit.”
Boals went on further about how the team’s first win affects them going forward.
“It gives fruition to your work ethic, your preparation, what you’ve been doing to prepare to win,” Boals said on the team’s first victory. “I told the guys our goal wasn’t to be 4-0 or 0-4. It was to be better today than we were yesterday. And I thought we’d gotten better every game.”
Two of the biggest keys to Stony Brook’s game are transition defense and rebounding, and while the team’s rebounding wasn’t strong against Brown, Boals liked how his team held Brown from easy buckets in transition. Going forward, Boals acknowledged that there is still work to be done, but Wednesday was a step in the right direction.
The victory over Brown is the first of a four-game homestand for Stony Brook, which continues Nov. 26 against Bucknell at 2 p.m. The game will be the conclusion of Stony Brook’s participation in the PK80 Phil Knight Invitational. The two programs have never faced each other before.