The Stony Brook men’s basketball team continued its trend of late season success, defeating the UMBC Retrievers 64-59 on Wednesday night at the UMBC Event Center. The Seawolves are now 4-1 in their last five games.
“This team has been resilient, we talk all the time about bending but not breaking and we definitely did that tonight,” head coach Jeff Boals said in a press release. “If you look at [UMBC’s] last five games, they turn people over and they score off those mistakes. Our guys found a way, though. We made free throws down the stretch like we have the last couple games and it was a great team effort.”
Senior guard UC Iroegbu had a remarkable performance offensively, scoring a career-high 20 points and knocking down four shots from beyond the arc in 31 minutes of action. Redshirt-sophomore forward Akwasi Yeboah finished with 18 points and eight rebounds and freshman forward Elijah Olaniyi finished with 13 points. The trio roughed up the Retrievers’ defense, scoring 51 of the Seawolves’ 64 points.
The three came up huge for the Seawolves as time winded down. Olaniyi drove to the middle of the paint and avoided three Retrievers defenders to layup the go-ahead shot with 1:16 remaining in the game.
After a missed shot attempt by UMBC graduate guard Jairus Lyles, Yeboah managed to grab a key rebound under the basket to force the Retrievers to foul the forward. The team was not affected by its recent free throw struggles, finishing the game going 71 percent from the charity stripe and converting its final six shots.
“We went through a five-game stretch where we lost five in a row by a combined score of 25 points,” Boals said in a postgame interview with ESPN. “Tonight we made our free throws down the stretch, which we didn’t do at that turn, so I’m really proud of our guys.”
The game was filled with long scoring drives and droughts by both teams. The Seawolves bounced back after starting the game off missing their first four shots with three consecutive baskets to take their first lead. Senior forward Bryan Sekunda hit a three-pointer, sparking a 14-2 run with 3:35 remaining in the first half.
Despite holding an eight-point lead over the Retrievers at halftime, the Seawolves had a difficult time carrying momentum into the second half. The team struggled to maintain possession offensively, turning the ball over on four consecutive drives midway through the second half.
UMBC took advantage of this by going on a 10-2 run to erase the deficit and take a 40-38 lead with 14 minutes remaining in the game. Neither team was able to pull away as both teams traded leads 10 times with the largest lead being three points up until the final minutes.
“We went through that big stretch in the second half where we turned the ball over and they made the run,” Boals said. “We bent but we didn’t break and I’m proud of our guys for closing it out.”
The team will close out its regular season in a conference matchup against the recently crowned America East champion Vermont Catamounts on Saturday, Feb. 24 at the Island Federal Credit Union Arena at 7 p.m.