With the America East postseason creeping up, Stony Brook Men’s Basketball did its part in trying to stay top-two in the America East by defeating the UMBC Retrievers 78-63 on Wednesday, Feb. 27.
The Seawolves put out a successful small-ball lineup against the Golden Retrievers. The team shot 50 percent from the field, including 44 percent from beyond the arc. Five players ended in double figures for the Seawolves, the first time since the team upset South Carolina on Nov. 9.
The team previously played UMBC on Jan. 30, with a much different result. Stony Brook was defeated 57-49. The 49 points scored was the lowest amount the team accounted for on the season.
“First game we just couldn’t hit a shot,” sophomore guard Elijah Olaniyi said. “Seeing a couple shots go down in the first half gave everyone a confidence boost and was really the difference.”
Olaniyi was one of the five scorers in double figures, capping the game with 15 points, six rebounds and three assists on 38 minutes played.
Redshirt-sophomore guard Andrew Garcia had an impressive showing, scoring 14 points, nine in the first half and six rebounds, four offensive.
“Drew is a tough matchup,” Boals said. “He’s strong enough to guard [centers] and he had the ability to rebound the ball. He gives you the ability to change the complexion of the game. There has been multiple times throughout the year where our small ball package has been really good for us and I think our guys are comfortable playing off each other.”
Headed into the half, the Seawolves scored just nine points less than their total in the first matchup. The team’s offensive presence allowed them to score six three pointers and have a field goal percentage of 45 percent. Yet, the team’s defensive pressure on the Retrievers showed.
Stony Brook held UMBC to just 29 points and forced eight turnovers. While Stony Brook found its groove offensively, UMBC was held to zero 3-pointers on 11 attempts.
In the second war, as head coach Jeff Boals refers to halves, the Seawolves almost let the lead slip away.
UMBC made a 9-0 run right from the start to close the lead to three in the first five minutes of play. Yet, as Boals has praised all year, his players showed the ability to “bend but not break” and make a run of their own. Stony Brook pushed the deficit to double digits at the 12:14 mark, as junior forward Akwasi Yeboah nailed a 3-pointer, his second of the night. Yeboah finished the matchup with a team-high 19 points and game-high nine rebounds.
The team kept any UMBC run attempt at bay, as points from sophomore center Jeff Otchere and Olaniyi in the final five minutes of the matchup increased the lead to 14. Freshman guard Miles Latimer iced the game with a 3-pointer with just over two minutes remaining.
With the win, the magic number to secure the No. 2 seed in the tournament moves to one. The team’s next matchup comes against Vermont, who sits on top of the America East. If the team wins both games, they move to the top seed of the America East tournament.
A No. 1 seed would be the program’s first since the 2014 season in which the team went on to win the America East tournament against Vermont. The team then took part in the NCAA Tournament, facing Kentucky in the opening round.
The team now travels north to Vermont, to take on the top-ranked Catamounts on Saturday, March 2. Opening tip is scheduled for 7 p.m.