Stony Brook Men’s Basketball was down 64-59 against Rutgers near the end of regulation at the Louis Brown Athletic Center on Friday, Dec. 22. With just 15 seconds left on the clock, Seawolves junior guard Jaron Cornish took the spotlight.
Cornish forced a steal off Rutgers senior guard Mike Williams that led to a dunk from Stony Brook senior forward Tyrell Sturdivant. Later, Cornish forced another steal after a timeout, and drained a game-tying three-pointer with three seconds left on the clock.
Rutgers’ lead had evaporated, and Stony Brook headed into its first overtime matchup in more than two years.
Senior forward Jakub Petras made the game-winning buzzer-beater, a jumper from the top of the key with just one second left in the game. Petras only attempted three shots all night, but was in the right place for the most important shot of the game to give Stony Brook the 75-73 victory.
“Hats off to our guys, what a great game,” head coach Jeff Boals said in a press release. “We kept chipping away and chipping away. They stretched the lead on us a couple times, but we always talk about ‘bend, don’t break’ and I thought we did a great job of being resilient, having great grit and perseverance. We made some game-winning plays down the stretch, but most importantly we battled on the boards and that was our biggest key going in.”
Forcing overtime was a wild ride for the Seawolves. The team trailed for over 33 minutes in regulation, unable to put together consistent scoring opportunities. The Seawolves shot just 21.4 percent from the field and went on lengthy stretches where they couldn’t hit from three-point range. There were two separate streaks where Stony Brook missed 11 and seven consecutive three-point attempts, respectively.
Still, the Seawolves made up for their poor shooting and kept fighting to stay in the game. They dominated the glass on offense, earning 18 second-chance points off 23 offensive rebounds. They also got production out of their bench, which scored 17 points overall compared to Rutgers’ nine bench points. Perhaps most importantly, Stony Brook converted 75 percent of its free throws, while Rutgers only hit 42 percent of its attempts from the line.
Cornish’s fourth-quarter heroics highlighted his strong overall performance. The guard posted his first career double-double, and finished with 15 points, 10 rebounds, six assists and three steals.
Redshirt-sophomore forward Akwasi Yeboah was another major contributor to the overtime victory. Yeboah led all players with 21 points, including seven of the team’s 11 overtime points. Yeboah also thrived at the free throw line, where he hit 80 percent of his attempts.
Stony Brook’s OT victory came at the expense of the program’s former coach, Steve Pikiell. Pikiell coached the men’s team for 11 seasons, culminating in the 2015-16 conference championship and the program’s first ever NCAA tournament appearance. Pikiell left following that season to accept the head coaching job at Rutgers, and the Scarlet Knights defeated Stony Brook 71-66 in his return last season.
The Seawolves broke a two-game losing streak and improved to 5-8 with the win. They will return home and face Norfolk State in their last game of 2017 on Dec. 30 at 7 p.m. The two programs have never played each other before.