The Stony Brook men’s basketball team had a quick turnaround after suffering a nationally-televised loss against Vermont on Thursday. Heading into the final games of the regular season, a win over one of the bottom teams in Division I was crucial to securing a top-2 seed and multiple home games in the conference playoffs.
The Seawolves got some help when first-place Vermont and third-place Albany both lost on Saturday. However, it wouldn’t have mattered if Stony Brook (18-10, 9-4) didn’t close out a 54-46 win over the Maine Black Bears (7-20, 3-10) on Saturday, Feb. 22 at Island Federal Arena.
“Out of the four years I’ve been a part of the league, this is by far the best the league has been,” head coach Geno Ford said in a postgame press conference. “There’s a lot of parity. There’s a lot of teams able to go on the road and win, so getting the No. 2 seed would be great and it’s really important. We’ve got to play better offensively than we’re playing right now.”
Stony Brook took charge of the game with a 10-0 run over the final four and a half minutes of the game to stave off an upset-starved Maine team currently in the bottom two of the America East standings. Redshirt-junior guard Makale Foreman sealed the game with his performance at the line; he was a perfect 7-for-7 on free throws, including a clutch set of three after he was fouled beyond the arc to put Stony Brook up 48-46 with 2:15 remaining.
“We shoot free throws every day, so it’s really normal,” Foreman said about the high-pressure situation in a postgame press conference. “I don’t really try to put too much pressure on myself, so I just go in there and think like nobody’s in the gym and knock them down.”
Maine came out of halftime firing. The Black Bears were down by seven after freshman guard Tyler Stephenson-Moore hit a corner three, his first bucket of the game, to go up 29-22. However, a 15-1 run quickly shifted the advantage to the road team’s side, prompting Ford to call timeout after Maine senior guard Sergio El Darwich connected from downtown to give the Black Bears a 37-30 lead.
“Makale really responded tonight leadership-wise, and was vocal,” Ford said. “We’re missing a huge vocal leader right now … I thought to start both halves, it was poor. Once we were down 37-30, we had a terrific timeout. I thought guys said the right things and then we came out and we made a quick run.”
The first half featured anemic offensive performances from both teams. Combined, Stony Brook and Maine shot 18-for-61 from the floor and 5-for-26 from beyond the arc. Multiple players coughed up the ball while driving into the paint, attempted alley-oops hilariously missed the mark and high-percentage layups under the bucket rimmed out. A 38-second span saw six consecutive possessions all end in turnovers: three for each team.
El Darwich was the primary contributor to a lifeless Maine offense that shot 28% overall and 26% on threes, scoring a game-high of 18 as the only Black Bears player to reach double digits. Stony Brook’s ghastly 4-for-28 (14%) 3-point shooting and inability to secure rebounds helped keep the game close until the end.
A potential frightening moment happened in the second half when junior forward Mouhamadou Gueye went down hard after reeling in a defensive board. He had been one of Stony Brook’s best players on the court all night, recording 14 points and eight rebounds in 23 minutes. Gueye was able to walk off with the help of trainers.
“He’s been dealing with a leg injury,” Ford said. “He just happened to reaggravate it when he landed. We’re hopeful that he’ll be back quickly, but he’s playing at less than 100% for sure.”
Ford also praised the performance of junior center Jeff Otchere, who didn’t score a bucket but blocked four shots. The statline was deemed ‘deceiving’ by his coach. “He won us the game,” Ford said. “He made them miss probably 10 to 12 shots in the charge circle where he contested and they weren’t able to finish.”
Stony Brook plays their final home game of the season in their next contest when they take on the Hartford Hawks (15-14, 8-6) on Wednesday, Feb. 26 at Island Federal Arena. The Hawks defeated the Seawolves in Connecticut last month to give Stony Brook their first conference loss.
The Seawolves have three games left in the regular season, and sit two games behind in the loss column of the Vermont Catamounts for first place in the America East. Stony Brook is also two games ahead in the loss column of the Hawks.