Stony Brook Men’s Basketball senior forward Junior Saintel slammed home an alley-oop pass from freshman forward Elijah Olaniyi with 1:16 remaining in regulation. The crowd at the Island Federal Credit Union Arena erupted, as the referee blew his whistle, signaling for a foul.
However, the foul was on Olaniyi and the basket was waved off.
“The one call, the one where I threw [Saintel] the lob, I think that was the momentum shift right there,” Olaniyi said. “Like, if that was a no-call, we could’ve carried that momentum to a victory.”
The Seawolves were unable to build off the deflating moment, and went on to lose their final regular season game to the Vermont Catamounts 69-60 Saturday night.
The Catamounts had three seniors score above 15 points, with guard Trae Bell-Haynes leading the way for his team with 19 points. Stony Brook redshirt-sophomore forward Akwasi Yeboah scored a game-high 21 points, but did not have a lot of scoring support to compliment his efforts.
Yeboah tied the game late in the second half after making all three of his free throws after getting fouled on a three-point attempt. Vermont responded with a 15-6 run over the final five minutes to seal Stony Brook’s fate.
“I thought we really battled, I thought we really competed tonight,” head coach Jeff Boals said. “I think we’ve been playing at a high level and coming into this game we were confident, our guys have been preparing and making plays. But Vermont is a really good basketball team that doesn’t beat itself. When you play a team like that you can’t make mental mistakes because they’ll capitalize on it.”
The mental mistakes Boals referred to were offensive rebounds. While the Seawolves gave up only seven offensive rebounds in the entirety of the game, one crucial offensive rebound late in the game helped set Vermont up for victory.
Redshirt-senior forward Payton Henson collected Bell-Haynes’ miss and converted a layup swarmed by Stony Brook defenders to give Vermont a four-point cushion.
“We definitely played well, and we battled hard too,” Yeboah said. “We didn’t back down from start to finish. Just unfortunate we couldn’t get some key rebounds and make some key plays down the stretch. We just have to fix those and we will be back on track.”
The playoff positions for the America East conference tournament were already decided before this game took place. The Catamounts were crowned America East champions back on Feb. 21 in a win over the Binghamton Bearcats. Meanwhile, Stony Brook had been locked into the fifth seed after UMBC beat UMass Lowell earlier in the day on Saturday.
Albany is the fourth seed, so Stony Brook will be traveling up to the capital city to take on their in-state rivals for the third time this season. Both games ended up in defeat for the Seawolves, but there is some doubt the team will be fully healthy by game time.
Senior guard UC Iroegbu left the game midway through the first half with an ankle injury. He was able to walk off the court under his own power, but immediately left the bench and headed back to the locker room with the team trainers.
“[Iroegbu] sprained his ankle. We don’t know how bad it is, he’s in a boot right now,” Boals said of the injury. “We’ll reevaluate him once he sleeps on it. Hopefully it’s not too bad.”
Despite the injury, the team is confident it can face the Great Danes at its home court and walk away with a victory. The Seawolves are 4-2 in their last six games, and have looked like a much stronger team on both sides of the ball.
“When you play Albany, they’re a very physical team,” Boals said. “A lot of it is going to come down to how the game is called and officiated. They’re another veteran team, a bunch of juniors and seniors that have played in a lot of big games. It’s going to be a low possession game. We have to step up and make shot. A lot of times, whichever teams wins the rebound war wins the game.”
The Great Danes and the Seawolves rank second and third respectfully in rebounding in the conference. The teams will face off one final time on Saturday, March 3 at the SEFCU Arena at 7 p.m.