The Stony Brook men’s basketball team came into Saturday, Dec. 21’s matchup against the American Eagles having lost three consecutive close games to difficult opponents. Entering halftime down by 14, it appeared as if the Seawolves would be on their way to another defeat, this time against a team without the name pedigree of Providence or Virginia. Led by redshirt-junior guard Makale Foreman, who scored 18 points in the second half, Stony Brook (8-6) completed the comeback for the 77-74 win over American (4-6).
With Stony Brook’s duo of bigs providing a clear size advantage in the paint, American effectively attacked early from 3-point range. The Eagles connected on their first three long balls and then capitalized off Seawolves turnovers to score eight in a row, going up 17-9. A 3-point play on Stony Brook’s end was immediately countered when American sophomore guard Jacob Boonyasith made a three, prompting Stony Brook head coach Geno Ford to call his first timeout down 20-12.
Instead of quelling the hot American offense, the Seawolves allowed the Eagles’ lead to reach 13 before the two teams began to trade baskets. Stony Brook could not substantially cut into the deficit, and Boonyasith sank another 3-pointer with four and a half minutes remaining in the first half to put American up 34-20. Ford used another timeout, but the Seawolves reached halftime still facing the same 14-point deficit with the score at 43-29. Stony Brook attempted just six threes in the first half and allowed American to shoot 52% from the floor.
Coming out of the break, the tide began to turn. Foreman started the scoring with a four-point play, and Stony Brook turned on the full-court pressure. Junior forward Mouhamadou Gueye’s layup brought the Seawolves to within single digits less than three minutes into the second half. The Eagles could not go on an extended run, although they managed to keep the Seawolves from doing the same. Boonyasith’s fourth 3-pointer of the game gave American a 51-41 lead with 13:36 remaining.
A 9-0 Stony Brook run was bookended by threes from Gueye (his fourth straight game with a trey) and Foreman. Suddenly, American was barely clinging onto a one-point advantage, having watched their large halftime lead disintegrate in nine minutes. The Eagles were able to create a little separation when senior guard Sa’eed Nelson made one of two free throws to make it 59-54.
Foreman continued to lead the Seawolves’ offense back into the game. The point guard first found a driving lane off a pass for a layup, then fired a three from the right wing to knot it up at 59 apiece. Still, Stony Brook couldn’t get a stop on the other end and had yet to fully climb the mountain. With less than five minutes remaining, junior guard Elijah Olaniyi was left open at the top of the key and drained his only three of the afternoon to tie the game at 66.
After both teams scored on their successive possessions, Gueye forced an errant American pass recovered by Foreman, who pulled up from the right wing and made his fifth three of the game to give Stony Brook a 71-68 lead, their first since the very beginning of the match. Although Nelson quickly responded with his own long ball to tie it up at 71, he would miss the front end of the one-and-one on the next possession. With 1:24 remaining, Gueye fed the ball to Olaniyi on a bounce pass in the paint, who got the layup to go up 73-71. The Eagles were forced to foul when the Seawolves’ defense came up with a turnover and stopped Nelson from making a contested layup. As Stony Brook scored four more points on free throws, American junior guard Stacy Beckton Jr. came up with the buzzer-beater three to bring the game to its final score.
Foreman and Olaniyi both led all players with 21 points. Redshirt-junior forward Andrew Garcia had his second double-double of the season with 13 points and 10 rebounds, while Gueye put up numbers in all columns of the box score: seven points, six rebounds, four assists, two steals and three blocks, leading the team in the latter three categories.
The Seawolves return home to Island Federal Arena for the first time in over three weeks to battle the Norfolk State Spartans on Sunday, Dec. 29 at 12 p.m. The two teams met twice last season, with Stony Brook earning the victory in both meetings.