Stony Brook Men’s Basketball found itself in a late-game situation for the fourth straight game on Wednesday night. Redshirt-sophomore forward Akwasi Yeboah converted a layup to cut the Seawolves’ deficit to one point with 34 seconds left in regulation. The team had clawed back from as many as 15 points at one time, and it was ready to end its three-game losing streak.
However, recent history repeated itself once again for Stony Brook.
“I feel like this is déjà vu, like Groundhog Day all over again,” head coach Jeff Boals said. “I thought for 32 minutes, we really competed and battled. We didn’t really quite execute well late, and that was the ballgame.”
Stony Brook fell 67-63 to UMBC at home, losing in the closing minutes once again to an America East rival. Retrievers graduate guard Jairus Lyles scored a game-high 24 points en route to taking down the Seawolves.
Stony Brook traded the lead with UMBC three times in the final eight minutes of play, but had one final opportunity late. Trailing by two points with 33 seconds remaining, Boals drew up a play that was meant to get the ball into Yeboah’s hands.
“We wanted to get [Yeboah] the ball, he was the one that had it going tonight,” senior forward Tyrell Sturdivant said. “The play was honestly for him, but execution is big late in games, and that’s one thing that we need to do better.”
The Retrievers’ defense on the final Seawolves offensive possession was enough to disrupt the play, as the ball never got to Yeboah. Instead, Sturdivant chucked up a deep three that hit the front rim and bounced out of bounds. With no timeouts left, the Seawolves were forced to foul, so the Retrievers made their free throws and the Seawolves fell once again.
“They’re a resilient bunch, but at some point, it can’t be the same thing over and over again,” Boals said. “The missed free throws, the turnovers, the lack of execution. When do you those things positively, you win games, and we have not been able to do that.”
Wednesday night’s game was the 11th time this season that a game has been decided in the final minute of play. Stony Brook was able to win big come-from-behind games against Rutgers and Saint Francis early in the season, but has lost its last four games, including Wednesday’s, by a combined score of 16 points.
“It’s kind of disappointing. This is definitely not what we set out to do,” Yeboah, who led the Seawolves with 20 points, said. “We just have to find a way, and we will. So, I’m going to stay positive and spread that energy amongst my teammates.”
The first half had an oddity of stats for both teams. UMBC led the America East Conference with a three-point field goal of 40 percent before Wednesday night. Stony Brook held them to shooting 21 percent from three. On the flip side, Stony Brook shot 88 percent from the free-throw line in the first half, while being the worst team in the conference in free throw percentage.
Though the Seawolves trailed by 15 late in the first half, Yeboah led a charge to even the score. He scored 12 of his 20 points during a 17-2 run that tied the game up at 30 with 3:01 until halftime. A lot of the team’s success during the run came when Boals switched the defensive pressure.
“They came out and were doing what they wanted in the first couple of wars,” Boals said. “So we went to our press-and-zone out of necessity. We were able to get some turnovers and run outs that got us back in the game.”
However, the team went back to man-to-man coverage when the second half started.
“I thought about doing that, but we wanted to come out, be aggressive and get some energy,” Boals said. “We went man-to-man, and I thought we guarded them pretty well. They made some tough shots at the end, give them credit.”
Stony Brook has seven more conference games left to make up ground. The America East Conference predicted that Stony Brook would place fourth in the conference during the preseason. The team will host Hartford on Saturday night, Feb. 3 at 7 p.m., in hopes of ending its four-game losing streak.