For a while, it looked as if the Stony Brook men’s basketball team would let another game slip away from them.
A 10-point lead with eight and a half minutes remaining had disintegrated, but the Seawolves (14-8, 5-2) came out on top 84-76 against the UMass Lowell River Hawks at the Tsongas Center in Lowell, Massachusetts on Wednesday, Jan. 29.
Redshirt-junior guard Makale Foreman had given Stony Brook its largest lead of the game when a pair of free throws made the score 58-48. The River Hawks began to show zone defense for the first time all night, giving the Seawolves trouble as the double-digit lead slowly shrank. UMass Lowell freshman forward Connor Withers tied the contest at 61 via the 3-pointer before freshman guard Ron Mitchell drew a foul and hit both free throw attempts to go up 63-61 with five minutes to go.
Foreman immediately responded with a triple from the right wing that rolled his way. Sophomore guard Miles Latimer added on with a corner three after being left completely uncovered to give Stony Brook a 67-63 lead. The Seawolves’ advantage was as large as nine points in the waning moments of the game following a layup by redshirt-junior forward Andrew Garcia with 2:01 on the clock, which made the score 74-65.
“We didn’t shoot the ball great,” head coach Geno Ford said in a press release. “And then we got the lucky – kind of fortunate – bounce… And then Latimer banged one and that really flipped the game. But they certainly were in a position to win.”
UMass Lowell did not relent. The team’s full court pressure led to tense moments and they were able to get calls under the bucket to send them to the line. The referees showed no hesitancy to blow the whistle in this game, calling 46 total fouls, some of which prevented Stony Brook from walking off the court easily.
The Seawolves fell behind early by as much as 12 in the first half. The River Hawks entered the game with a reputation for being offensively potent, and it allowed them to go up 19-7 with 13:23 left until halftime. They began the game 8-for-12 from the floor while Stony Brook could only muster a 3-for-13 performance in comparison.
Junior guard Elijah Olaniyi was taken out of the game with 8:51 in the first half, noticeably limping off the court having drawn a foul. He re-entered but was quickly removed again after seemingly taking a knee to the groin.
Garcia gave Stony Brook their first lead of the game since the opening bucket with a layup, capping a 20-7 run that put the Seawolves ahead 27-26. The River Hawks took the lead back before Garcia completed a 3-point play to go up 37-36 less than a minute before halftime. Stony Brook widened its lead to three at the break as Olaniyi got a buzzer-beating third-chance layup to fall.
“In the first half, when we were out of sorts and we weren’t making any threes, Drew was able to just keep us afloat,” Ford said. “Those stretches of the game are enormously important. We got down double-figures, but we could easily have been down 20. We were able to keep it at eight or 10. And somehow, at the end of the half, we made just enough of a run and got a small lead.”
Foreman, one of four Stony Brook players to score in double digits, led all Seawolves with 19 points. Garcia’s 18, Latimer’s 17 and Olaniyi’s 13 rounded out the bunch. It was the first time in six games that Olaniyi did not reach the 20-point mark. UMass Lowell graduate guard Christian Lutete, the conference’s leading scorer at 20.8 points per game, led all players with 27. Junior guard Obadiah Noel also added 20 for the River Hawks.
In a three-way tie for second place in the America East, Stony Brook will look to separate from the pack back home at Island Federal Arena on Saturday, Feb. 1. The Seawolves host the UMBC Retrievers (9-13, 2-5) at 7 p.m. in this year’s edition of Stony Brook Children’s Hospital Night.