The opening possession of the Stony Brook Men’s Basketball game against Bucknell resulted in a missed opportunity on an open layup by redshirt sophomore forward Akwasi Yeboah. Within two minutes of the missed shot, Yeboah was heading to the bench with two fouls.
He remained on the bench the rest of the first half, while he watched his team fall behind the Bison 40-31.
“I thought him playing two minutes in the first half hurt us,” head coach Jeff Boals said. “The opening play had us throw the ball inside to him, which was one of our keys to the game, and he missed the layup. I think that set the tone for the rest of the game.”
Yeboah played 14 of his 16 total minutes in the second half, but was unable to help the Seawolves take the lead back from the Bisons, eventually falling 85-76 at the Island Federal Credit Union Arena Sunday afternoon.
Stony Brook attempted to trim the deficit on multiple occasions throughout the second half, getting within five points several times. However, the free-throw line plagued the team in the second half. After only having four attempts in the first half, the team took 24 free throws, but made just 13. The Seawolves left 11 points at the charity stripe in the second half, resulting in frustration for Boals.
“Against really good teams, your margin for error is very slim,” Boals said. “We missed 15 layups, we went 16-28 from the free-throw line and we had 14 turnovers. If you cut the turnovers in half, you make six more free-throws and make half the layups you missed, you win by eight or nine.”
Bisons senior forward Zach Thomas flirted with a triple-double against the Seawolves, scoring a game-high 38 points, to go with 11 rebounds and seven assists. He poured in five three-pointers and was perfect from the free-throw line, making all 13 attempts.
“He’s a tough player to guard because his range is really far, and we had to respect his driving ability as well,” senior forward Tyrell Sturdivant said. “He reminds me a lot of [Yeboah], and it’s hard to guard Akwasi, so it’s hard to guard a guy like him. When you have a guy who can drive past you, shoot or post up, it’s just a match-up problem.”
Sturdivant led Stony Brook with 16 points, but other players stepped up in their respective roles. Junior guard Jaron Cornish played nearly the entire second half after replacing freshman guard Jordan McKenzie two minutes into the second half. He scored eight points, grabbed five rebounds and dished out five assists in what was his first game playing over 25 minutes for the Seawolves after only playing 10 minutes in a win against Brown on Nov. 22.
Freshman forward Elijah Olaniyi scored in double figures for the third straight game, scoring 14 points on 6-7 shooting. Olaniyi and senior forward Junior Saintel split time at the power forward position, but Boals elected to stick with Olaniyi in the final minutes of the game. The freshman said that he is ready to contribute when his number is called off the bench.
“Coach has been giving me the opportunity and trusting me to know what I’m doing and going out there and doing that,” Olaniyi said.
While Olaniyi has noticed he has been playing more minutes as of late, Boals said that he will grow as a player with more game experience. Olaniyi knows this as well, as he took blame for missing foul shots during Sunday’s loss.
“Foul shots are just reps, and I shot one-for-three today,” Olaniyi said. “I know I could’ve hit all three, but it’s just all about getting in the gym and getting foul shots up so you can make them all next game.”
Despite stellar play from his two bench players, Boals is not ready to make any major adjustments to the starting lineup.
“I’m not concerned about the starting five right now,” Boals said. “I thought we got off to a pretty good start today. It’s just a matter of our depth being one of our strengths and those guys adding energy off the bench, which is what they do.”
Stony Brook now has a 1-5 overall record to start the season. During this six-game stretch, the team has played four teams who played in the NCAA tournament last season in Maryland, UConn, Michigan State and Bucknell. Sturdivant says that while he has played in the tournament once before, there are news things to learn from playing elite teams early in the season.
“I’ve been to the tournament, and I’ve been around a team like that,” Sturdivant said. “So I know how hard you have to play every possesion.”
Stony Brook will look to earn its second win of the season when the team takes on Shawnee State University at home on Nov. 29 at 7 p.m.