Different location, same result.
It had been just seven days since the Stony Brook men’s basketball team last faced the UMass Lowell River Hawks, falling behind early before turning on the jets late to seal a victory. On Wednesday, Feb. 5, as the series shifted to Long Island, Stony Brook (16-8, 7-2) again overcame a second-half deficit for the 77-70 win over UMass Lowell (9-15, 3-6).
“I thought we showed really good toughness the last seven minutes,” head coach Geno Ford said in a postgame press conference. “When we were at the media timeout and we were down one, we had started to draw a play up and I literally just erased the board and took the play completely off there and just wrote ‘toughness’. We talked about toughness right there because honestly, this was not a game that was going to be won by plays, it was going to be won by players.”
Foul trouble forced Ford to experiment with unique lineups in the second half. The Seawolves’ duo of big men, junior center Jeff Otchere and junior forward Mouhamadou Gueye, both had to sit out in a one-possession game. Otchere eventually fouled out with 5:33 remaining while Gueye picked up his fourth with 8:42, remaining on the bench for the next six and a half minutes.
In their place, freshmen guards Tyler Stephenson-Moore and Tavin Pierre Philippe took the court for a lineup that lacked size. The River Hawks took their last lead, 52-51, after junior guard Obadiah Noel’s second-chance layup. Noel guided UMass Lowell in the second half, scoring 22 points, drawing eight fouls and recording three steals. On the next possession, redshirt-junior forward Andrew Garcia gave Stony Brook the lead for good by hitting two free throws.
Noel finished the game with a team-high 31 points, but he was not the highest scorer on the night. That honor would go to junior guard Elijah Olaniyi, who broke his single-game points record for the second time this season. After putting up 30 against Brown on Dec. 7, 2019, Olaniyi led all players with 33, spread out almost evenly with 17 in the first half and 16 in the second. He also had 10 rebounds for his fifth double-double over the last eight games.
“I came into the game with the mindset of being more assertive in the first half because I know in the last couple of games, we haven’t gotten off to a good start,” Olaniyi said in a postgame press conference. “I was just trying to win the game, especially when it was close late… My teammates actually informed me, ‘Hey, you got 30’, and that’s when I knew.”
Olaniyi helped open the game up late in the stretch, receiving a backwards dime from redshirt-junior guard Makale Foreman. He was left wide open from the left wing and drained the three to give Stony Brook a 2-possession lead for the first time in 13 minutes. Garcia then poked the ball away to come up with his fourth steal of the night, finishing the play with a slam dunk. UMass Lowell head coach Pat Duquette immediately called a timeout with the Seawolves up 58-52.
The River Hawks couldn’t close the gap. There were 54 seconds left on the clock when Stephenson-Moore sunk the dagger, a 3-pointer that gave Stony Brook an 11-point lead. In his second career start, the freshman recorded multiple career highs: 32 minutes logged, 10 points and four made buckets.
“It’s just hard work paying off,” Stephenson-Moore said in a postgame press conference. “I just want to help the team win and be a great teammate. These guys help me out and I’m going to help them out.”
Led by Olaniyi’s career night, four Stony Brook players scored in double digits. Garcia finished with 14 while Stephenson-Moore and Foreman both reached 10 in the waning moments of the game. The highly physical contest led to 43 total fouls called after 46 in last week’s game.
“Both teams were able to really get in the paint and drew a lot of fouls,” Ford said. “They were all fouls. I didn’t think the game was officiated poorly. There were just a lot of guys fouling on drives.”
UMass Lowell graduate guard Christian Lutete, who entered the contest averaging 20.9 points per game, was held scoreless until the 7-minute mark in the first half, scoring just 10 points on the night. It was his lowest point total in 12 games.
“I’m going to tell you that we did a good job,” Ford said. “I’m also going to tell you that [Lutete] missed some shots that he has not missed in a month.”
It was another cold night from downtown for the Seawolves, who hit on just four of their 17 attempts (24%). The Seawolves had to be encouraged by their performance at the line, going 23-for-26 (89%).
Stony Brook will not return home for more than two weeks. The New Hampshire Wildcats (10-11, 3-5) await on Saturday, Feb. 8 at the Lundholm Gymnasium in Durham, New Hampshire, with tip-off scheduled for noon. The Seawolves blew out the Wildcats 73-48 on Jan. 11 at Island Federal Arena and have won eight of the last nine matchups in the series.
Sophomore guard Miles Latimer did not play on Wednesday due to the flu; Ford anticipates he will return on Saturday.