Junior guard Elijah Olaniyi, the leading scorer on the Stony Brook men’s basketball team, remained sidelined with what head coach Geno Ford described as a “high ankle sprain” he suffered in Saturday’s loss at New Hampshire.
The Seawolves needed people to step up in his absence. On Wednesday, Feb. 12, Stony Brook (17-9, 8-3) squeaked out a 75-70 triumph on the road over the Binghamton Bearcats (8-16, 2-9) behind career nights from both redshirt-junior forward Andrew Garcia and freshman guard Tyler Stephenson-Moore.
“I think we played about as well as we’ve played in a month,” Ford said in a press release. “And it took it. I thought Binghamton played really well … If we can keep that intensity, we’ll be fine. We were missing Elijah, who is a terrific player, but a lot of guys stepped up for us to help us come away with a tough win.”
Stony Brook had a 7-point lead, 69-62, with over five minutes remaining. A minute later, the advantage was down to a single possession. Binghamton sophomore guard Sam Sessoms drew a foul and hit both free throws while senior forward Pierre Sarr, who torched the Seawolves for 19 points and 14 rebounds when the two teams met on Long Island, took a dime from Sessoms and finished with a layup.
As the game approached two and a half minutes left, Bearcats freshman guard Brenton Mills got Binghamton the closest it would get in the second half. His transition jumper put the Bearcats within two, 70-68, needing a stop to potentially tie up the contest. That opportunity never came, as sophomore guard Miles Latimer sunk a corner three — his first and only bucket of the game — to give the Seawolves some much-needed wiggle room.
The Bearcats would get one back with 58 seconds remaining as senior guard Richard Caldwell, Jr. was fouled off an offensive rebound. His free throws brought Binghamton back to one possession down just 73-70. They were given one final shot after Garcia was called for a travel under the basket.
Mills fired a three from the left wing that rolled out of the hoop. Junior forward Mouhamadou Gueye came down with the rebound and was instantly fouled, sealing the game at the line.
The win didn’t come easy for the Seawolves, who squandered a 10-point first-half lead by allowing the Bearcats to score 11 straight. Stony Brook built their large advantage off the shooting of Stephenson-Moore, who had a stretch where he scored eight of the last nine Seawolves points. The freshman started his night with a highlight reel second-chance dunk while being fouled.
Stony Brook got back on top but led by just three at halftime. After the break, hot 3-point shooting created distance for the Seawolves before the Bearcats eventually shrunk the gap. Garcia scored 14 of his game-high 24 points in the second half, muscling his way through the paint for layups and drawing contact from defenders. He tied his career high from Dec. 29, 2018 against Northern Iowa.
Stephenson-Moore continued to impress as his minutes have increased. Playing a career-high 36 minutes, he scored 19 points for the second consecutive game. In his four career starts, the freshman from Port Washington is averaging 13.3 points and 5.0 rebounds per game.
The Seawolves have eight days to prepare for a nationally-televised showdown with the Vermont Catamounts (20-6, 10-1), who have not lost since falling to Stony Brook on their home court on Jan. 8. The game at Island Federal Arena on Thursday, Feb. 20 will be broadcasted on ESPNU.