A weekend trip to Corpus Christi, Texas ended in glory for the Stony Brook men’s basketball team as they swept through the Islander Invitational, winning all three games at the American Bank Center to improve to 4-2 on the season. After getting past the Texas A&M-Corpus Christi Islanders 68-63 on Friday, Nov. 15 and handling the UTRGV Vaqueros 69-58 on Saturday, Nov. 16, the Seawolves made a definitive statement on Sunday, Nov. 17 by closing out strong 64-57 against a North Dakota State Bison team that reached the NCAA Tournament last year.
“It was a gutsy performance today,” head coach Geno Ford said in a press release following Sunday’s victory. “We got big games from several key guys and then made timely, dagger threes late when we needed them. Throughout the early season as our depth improves, we will get better.”
The Seawolves found themselves in dire straits during their first half in Texas, with another poor shooting performance weighting them down. Stony Brook shot just 28% from the floor and 22% from three-point range, missing layups and taking poorly-chosen shots. They were fortunate to only be down by one possession entering the break, as Texas A&M-Corpus Christi went 6-for-15 from three and outrebounded Stony Brook 24-18. Winning the turnover battle helped the Seawolves face just a 25-22 deficit at halftime.
Stony Brook fell behind by nine after conceding two straight threes, with the score standing at 35-26 more than four minutes into the second half. Texas A&M-Corpus Christi used the long ball to their advantage, hitting four of their first seven in the half and leading 44-36 entering the midway point of the period.
Then the Seawolves lit it up, scoring 13 unanswered points to take their first lead of the game.
Redshirt-junior forward Andrew Garcia was fouled on a jumper and completed the three-point play to finish the run up by five, 49-44.
After the Islanders tied it back up at 51, redshirt-junior guard Makale Foreman hit back-to-back threes to go up by six with three minutes to go. Stony Brook was able to both drain the clock and score down the stretch, forcing Texas A&M-Corpus Christi to foul losing by four with 18 seconds remaining. The Seawolves prevailed and won 68-63 to improve to 2-2 and claim their first victory over a Division I opponent this season.
Islanders junior guard Myles Smith led all players with 22 points. Junior forward Elijah Olaniyi led all Seawolves with 19, his third time this season as Stony Brook’s top scorer. Foreman’s 17 and Garcia’s 15 were the other Seawolves who scored in double digits. Freshman guard Tyler Stephenson-Moore made his collegiate debut after being sidelined with a foot injury he suffered in preseason; he scored five points.
The starters were taxed early, as they all played at least 29 minutes on Friday with the exception of junior center Jeff Otchere, who was limited to nine minutes as he quickly racked up four fouls.
Stony Brook’s performance on Saturday against UTRGV saw them control the contest from the opening tip. For the first time all season, the Seawolves never trailed in a game. They scored the first five points and quickly went up by double digits after Olaniyi connected from three to make the score 17-7.
The Seawolves went into halftime with a 35-27 lead off the backs of 52% shooting compared to the Vaqueros’ 26%. The lead could have been larger had Stony Brook not committed 14 turnovers with a -8 margin. UTRGV began the second half on a 10-4 run to cut the deficit to two, then Olaniyi quickly responded with a three-ball to quell the momentum.
Foreman continued to impress, sinking back-to-back shots from deep to force a Vaqueros timeout seven minutes into the half with Stony Brook up 48-37. UTRGV remained competitive but could not squish the deficit to lower than five. Like they did on Friday, the Seawolves were able to kill the clock and get off good shots late. Foreman sunk the dagger with 39 seconds remaining, his fourth three of the half bringing the game to its 69-58 final score.
Olaniyi led all players on Saturday with 20 points. Garcia added in 16 and Foreman added in 14. The Vaqueros played extremely physically, racking up 21 total personal fouls. Stony Brook shot 6-for-10 from beyond the arc in the second half to close out their third straight victory.
Sunday afternoon’s bout with North Dakota State began extraordinarily well for Stony Brook, who scored the first ten points of the game. However, the Bison guarded the paint strongly leading to a seven-minute scoreless drought for the Seawolves. North Dakota State’s 12-0 run gave them a 23-19 lead with less than four minutes in the first half. The Seawolves, down by as much as five, took the advantage back before sophomore guard Tyree Eady hit a long two-point jumper to put the Bison up 28-27 entering halftime.
The second half began as a series of back-and-forth scores that saw neither team take momentum. Every Stony Brook bucket had a North Dakota State response, but with six minutes to go, the Seawolves pulled ahead. Foreman gave his team the lead back with a layup and added a 3-pointer to go up four; Garcia followed with a layup that put the Seawolves ahead 55-49 with four minutes left to play.
The Bison countered with a long ball from junior forward Rocky Kreuser, yet Garcia made another layup and junior forward Mouhamadou Gueye sunk a clutch three to give Stony Brook the 60-52 lead with 1:09 remaining. From there, North Dakota State could only foul, and the Seawolves hit all their free throws to win 64-57 over the defending Summit League champions.
Olaniyi led all players with 20 points on Sunday; he was Stony Brook’s leading scorer for all three games of the Invitational. Foreman and Garcia also scored in double digits in each game, contributing 15 and 13 respectively in the final contest. The Seawolves continued their weekend’s trend of hot second-half shooting, connecting on 44% of shots and going 6-for-10 from three on Sunday.
Currently owners of a four-game winning streak, Stony Brook returns to New York on Saturday, Nov. 23 as they go on the road to face the Wagner Seahawks. Opening tip is scheduled for 3 p.m. at the Spiro Sports Center in Staten Island.