On his 21st birthday, junior guard Elijah Olaniyi had scored just four points at halftime, well below pace of his season average. He came out of the break red-hot, scoring nine consecutive points to open up the second half as the Stony Brook men’s basketball team dismantled the New Hampshire Wildcats 73-48 on Saturday, Jan. 11 at Island Federal Arena.
Stony Brook (12-6, 3-0) won its fifth consecutive victory and remain unblemished in conference play, while New Hampshire (8-8, 1-2) was held to 24% shooting while committing 19 turnovers.
“We didn’t have the same pop [in the first half] we usually do,” Olaniyi said in a postgame press conference. “I told the guys, ‘my bad, I’m going to bring it this half.’ It starts with me, and I felt like that trickled down to everybody.”
Holding on to an 8-point lead at halftime, Stony Brook scored the first nine points of the game but allowed New Hampshire to hang around and cut the deficit to as low as four with eight minutes remaining in the first half. The Seawolves missed numerous layups and made just four of 14 3-point attempts, but still were up 31-23 as a result of the Wildcats’ offensive woes.
“New Hampshire came in playing pretty well,” head coach Geno Ford said. “They’re a much improved team. I think they’re one of the three most physical teams in the league. We struggled in the first half with the physicality. We didn’t finish in the paint very well.”
Olaniyi then seized control of the game, grabbing a steal on New Hampshire’s first possession of the second half to kickstart a 9-0 run all by himself. After missing all three of his shots from downtown in the first half, he drained his first three of the game to cap off the stretch and give Stony Brook a 40-23 lead. Altogether, Olaniyi scored 14 of the Seawolves’ first 18 points after the break.
The Seawolves led by as much as 26 after redshirt-junior guard Makale Foreman connected on his fourth triple of the night to put Stony Brook up 60-34. Foreman was the main contributor to the Seawolves’ offense during their sluggish first half, scoring 13 of his team’s 31 points while going 3-for-7 from deep. The Seawolves shot 37% before halftime compared to 61% after.
Coming off a massive upset at Vermont that gave Stony Brook a lot of national attention, there was reason to be cautious of a potential ‘hangover effect’. “I was as concerned as you could be,” Ford said. “It’s human nature. When you get told, ‘Good job, good job, good job,’ there’s a level of that that’s great because it builds confidence, and then there’s a fine line where you can get too much of it and it becomes a little poisonous to the process.”
New Hampshire entered the game with 3-pointers comprising 44% of its total shots, but the long ball was silenced on Saturday night as the Wildcats made just seven of their 25 attempts. The Wildcats lived up to their billing as the top rebounding team in the America East, beating the Seawolves in boards 49 to 41 and especially on the offensive glass, 19 to 5. Still, that alone could not prevent New Hampshire from suffering a beatdown.
Foreman led all players with 23 points, his third consecutive 20-point game, while Olaniyi recorded 22 points and 11 rebounds for his second straight double-double. After Saturday night’s performance, Olaniyi ranks second in the conference in scoring at 19.1 points per game.
“We are much better offensively now than we were a month ago,” Ford said. “The guys are more comfortable… We have much better flow right now. Guys are playing with a lot of confidence.”
The Wildcats’ duo of sophomore forward Nick Guadarrama and junior guard Sean Sutherlin, both of whom entered the game averaging at least 14 points and 8 rebounds, were shut down by the Seawolves. Guadarrama scored 11 points and had just 5 boards, while Sutherland was able to rack up 10 rebounds but shot 1-for-10 from the field and committed nine turnovers.
During this 5-game winning streak, Stony Brook has scored at least 70 points in each game. The Seawolves have also won five straight at home, all by more than 15 points.
“We’re letting people know that when you come into Island Federal Arena, you’re going to get a good fight,” Foreman said.
Stony Brook will look to maintain a perfect record in conference play when the Seawolves take on the Hartford Hawks (9-8, 2-0) on Wednesday, Jan. 15. The Hawks will have a 7-day gap in between games, having defeated UMass Lowell 80-68 in their last contest. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m. at Chase Arena in West Hartford, Connecticut.