Redshirt-junior forward Andrew Garcia in a game against Yale on Nov. 5. In the game against Manhattan Jaspers on Dec. 2, Garcia had a season-high of nine rebounds. EMMA HARRIS/THE STATESMAN

The Stony Brook men’s basketball team made easy work of the Manhattan Jaspers (3-3) in a 65-47 blowout on Monday, Dec. 2 to improve to 6-3 on the season. The team played at home in the friendly confines of Island Federal Arena for the first time in three weeks. Showing no ill effects from an overmatched Wednesday loss at Delaware, the Seawolves took control early against a team notorious for their difficult defensive style.

“I thought the game was going to be physical and tough, and it was,” head coach Geno Ford said in a postgame press conference. “[Manhattan makes] you play their style of game. They’re going to jam it inside on offense and defensively, they press the entire game and then they play all zone. It’s tough because we don’t see that style very often. Coming into tonight, we’ve played against three zone possessions the entire year, and then we just had it for 40 minutes.”

A year ago, Stony Brook traveled to the Bronx to take on the same Jaspers squad, ultimately prevailing 69-62 in a hard-fought battle that saw Manhattan commit 32 fouls and give the Seawolves trouble with their full-court press. This time around, Stony Brook’s offense was able to decide the game early, shooting 43% from the floor and holding the lead for 92% of the game.

Living up to their reputation, the Jaspers committed their first foul less than thirty seconds into the game, and redshirt-junior forward Andrew Garcia capitalized by knocking down both free throws to start the scoring. Manhattan was able to get on top for 23 seconds when sophomore guard Samir Stewart hit on a contested three to give the Jaspers a 5-4 lead.

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It was short-lived, however, as junior forward Elijah Olaniyi drove in for the layup that put Stony Brook ahead again. The Jaspers initially made things interesting as senior forward Tyler Reynolds hit two threes with an Olaniyi triple sandwiched in between, as the second one knotted the match up at 11.

The game began to get out of hand from that point. Over the next six minutes, the Seawolves embarked on a 12-1 run and Jaspers head coach Steve Masiello called a timeout after Olaniyi buried a corner three to expand the lead to double digits. Manhattan’s zone was able to guard the paint well and hold Stony Brook scoreless over a three-minute stretch, but they could only cut the deficit to five before the Seawolves began firing again. Stony Brook widened the lead to 15 at halftime.

The Seawolves came out of the break hot, scoring the first ten points of the second half to lead 47-22 as part of a 24-4 run that spanned almost ten minutes. Offensively, the Jaspers could not get anything going as a result of numerous travel calls, missed open-look threes and layups that fell off the rim. Manhattan shot 29% on the night with zero players scoring in double digits and an 8-for-30 performance in the first half.

“Tonight, they couldn’t quite buy a basket,” Ford said. “I thought Jeff [Otchere’s] interior defense was a huge factor, but they’re better than the score indicated.”

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Otchere fell one point shy of a double-double for the second consecutive game, scoring nine while recording 10 rebounds along with two blocks and four fouls drawn.

“I feel like I’m getting in my groove,” Otchere said in a postgame press conference. “I feel like my teammates are trusting me more now that the passes are converting into points, and it’s only going to get better from here.”

Even with a large lead, Stony Brook’s gameplay was not flawless. After Stewart hit Manhattan’s first three of the second half with 8:13 remaining, Garcia was stripped off the inbound and Reynolds sank another 3-pointer to reduce the Seawolves’ lead to 19. Ford immediately called timeout.

It wouldn’t be the only time that sloppy play gave Stony Brook trouble in the blowout victory. The Seawolves’ largest lead of the night was 30 points, held with 3:24 left and the score at 65-35. A Manhattan long ball made it a 27-point game before junior guard Jordan McKenzie had the ball stolen from him in the backcourt and converted into Jaspers points with a layup. On the ensuing possession, McKenzie turned the ball over again and Manhattan capitalized, prompting Ford to burn another timeout.

“It was kind of difficult to watch,” Ford said. “I don’t know what we were doing. We called timeouts because we were trying to get back organized. I think we just lost concentration and that’s part of what makes Manhattan so good … it becomes mental fatigue along with physical fatigue in that stretch of the game.”

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All in all, Stony Brook was held scoreless throughout the final five and a half minutes of the game as Manhattan ended on a 12-0 run. After committing just three turnovers in the first half, Stony Brook had 12 in the second. The disparity between the two teams’ performances was not as close as the final margin of victory – 18 points – would suggest. 

Olaniyi and Garcia both ended as the game’s highest scorers with 16 points on the night; Garcia recorded a season-high nine rebounds, falling one short of a double-double.

“Every game, I expect to take that [defensive] role regardless,” Garcia said in a postgame interview. “I need to be the person who gets all the rebounds because Jeff or Mo [Gueye] are doing all the dirty work and trying to box out, so me or Elijah have to be in there to clean it up most of the time. I’m making it a staple of my game. I need to get everything.”

The Seawolves will remain at home for their next matchup, a showdown with the Brown Bears (4-3) of the Ivy League on Saturday, Dec. 7. These two teams faced each other last season in Providence, Rhode Island, where Stony Brook fell 71-69, coincidentally also one game after facing Manhattan.

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