Albany junior guard Joe Cremo drained a heavily contested three-pointer on a bad ankle to cut Stony Brook Men’s Basketball lead to 32-26 with six seconds remaining in the first half. There were shades of familiarity, resembling last season’s America East semifinal game when the Great Danes sunk a buzzer-beating three-point shot at the end of the first half. Albany rode the momentum to end the Seawolves’ season.
Just like the game back in March, a three-pointer proved to be a shot that turned the tide on Saturday night.
The shot gave Albany the momentum they were looking for, as they climbed back from a 12-point first half deficit with three 14-point scorers and knocked off Stony Brook 57-50 at the Island Federal Credit Union Arena.
“I thought we did a really good job in the first 16 minutes of the game, controlling everything offensively and defensively,” head coach Jeff Boals said. “We had a little lull those last four minutes, and they had some momentum going into the second half.”
Both teams traded leads in the final five minutes, with senior guard UC Iroegbu hitting a layup with 3:21 left in the game to give his team a 50-49 lead. The Great Danes went on an 8-0 run over the final three minutes, culminating in junior guard David Nichols’ perfect trip to the free throw line and Cremo’s fastbreak layup with six seconds left.
“When we’re not shooting the ball well, we have to find other ways to score,” senior forward Tyrell Sturdivant, who led Stony Brook with 12 points, said. “One thing we do well is offensive rebounds, so that has to be a focus going forward, especially when we’re missing shots. We need to really focus in on offensive rebounds.”
The Seawolves are tied in the America East with New Hampshire in offensive rebounds per game, averaging just under 12 rebounds per game. However, the team only grabbed six offensive boards, while the Great Danes hauled in 12, including two in the final five minutes.
Senior forward Greig Stire grabbed the offensive board and dunked it home, and graduate forward Travis Charles grabbed another offensive rebound late and was fouled on his shot. Charles made both of his free throws to give Albany a 53-50 lead with 2:07 remaining.
Foul trouble was a constant issue for the Seawolves, especially for redshirt-sophomore forward Akwasi Yeboah. Yeboah fouled out of the game and only played nine minutes in the first half due to picking up two fouls early in the game. The forward averages less than 10 points per game in losses, and that plays in part to his foul trouble, as he has picked up four or more fouls in three of Stony Brook’s conference losses.
Boals stuck with Yeboah after he picked up his third foul three minutes into the second half before picking up his fourth foul less than a minute later. Boals had a feeling that when he subbed Yeboah back into the game, he would try and do a bit too much to help his team.
“This is a new role for him. He’s gotta learn how to play with fouls,” Boals said. “It’s frustrating in a sense to sit as long as you do, and his mindset is to score the basketball. [Yeboah] has the ability to take tough shots and make tough shots, and we knew if we had any chance to win the game, he had to take tough shots. I’m going to live with [Yeboah] doing that.”
Yeboah drained a three-pointer after he was subbed back into the second half to give Stony Brook a 48-47 lead with 4:56 left. He never made another basket, and fouled out of the game with 25 seconds remaining.
“I just have to do a better job on how I’m playing on defense,” Yeboah said, banging his hands on the table in clear frustration and disappointment. “But it’s tough. I’ve been doing the same stuff all year, and I don’t know what to say. I guess I have to adjust.”
The Seawolves shot well from the floor, and it was clear that they were thriving off playing in front of a large home crowd for the first time in over a month. The team came out shooting 48 percent from the field, while also shooting 44 percent from three. Their weakest area was their free throw shooting, where they shot 40 percent.
However, it was a tale of two halves, as Stony Brook shot 27 percent from the field, 15 percent from three and they never attempted a free throw in the second half.
“Albany is the most physical team in the conference, and they’re gonna chuck cutters, push you in the back on rebounds and do what they do,” Boals said. “They were in the bonus with 12 minutes to go in the second half, and I think we had three team fouls on them. They played man the whole game, so it was very frustrating to not get to the free throw line.”
Stony Brook, currently on a three-game losing streak, now holds an 8-14 overall record and a 3-5 conference record. The team will look to end that streak when it hosts UMBC on Wednesday, Jan. 31, with tipoff slated for 7 p.m.