The plan was simple — win and clinch a home game in the quarterfinals of the America East Tournament.
Some help was needed across the conference if the Stony Brook men’s basketball team wanted to clinch a top-2 seed on Wednesday, Feb. 26, but ultimately none of that mattered as the Seawolves (18-11, 9-5) fell 65-54 at Island Federal Arena in their final home game of the regular season to the Hartford Hawks (16-14, 9-6).
Stony Brook ended up getting the rest of the necessary results when both UMBC and Albany lost on the same night. However, the most important one — Stony Brook’s own win — did not come to fruition.
Instead, the devastating defeat set the Seawolves’ hopes back as they now have to win both of their final two regular season games in order to seize the No. 2 seed on their own. Vermont won the America East regular season championship on an idle night with Stony Brook’s loss.
“Tonight’s loss hurts because of how poorly we played offensively,” head coach Geno Ford said in a postgame press conference. “It stinks that we shot ourselves in the foot with that, but that being said, we’ve got to fix what we’re doing right now and we need some guys to play significantly better than they’re playing.”
The shooting numbers were ghastly for the Seawolves. They went 20-for-63 (32%) from the floor and a horrid 4-for-26 (15%) on 3-pointers, including a stretch where Stony Brook missed 21 consecutive attempts from beyond the arc. The Seawolves also turned the ball over 19 times, with the Hawks recording 16 steals.
“Offensively, we were a travesty,” Ford said. “We’ve got to be a lot better on offense. Some of them were good shots that we just aren’t making right now. At other times, we got it to the rim and just weren’t finishing in traffic, which has been an issue for us all year.”
It had been a while since the Seawolves jumped out to a dominating lead by the first media timeout. Redshirt-junior guard Makale Foreman hit on his first three attempts from beyond the arc, racking up nine quick points as Stony Brook held an 11-2 advantage four minutes into the contest.
The positive energy was quickly neutralized before the end of the first half. With the Seawolves up 23-16, Hartford went on a 16-0 run that was halted by a 3-point play by junior forward Mouhamadou Gueye. The Hawks would add six more before halftime to take a 38-26 lead into the break, going on a 22-3 run over the final 6:13. The stretch saw Stony Brook shoot 1-for-11 with three turnovers.
“I don’t know, in my career, if I’ve had a team with guys this size and strength who have at times struggled to finish,” Ford said. “Our guards are as guilty as anybody getting it in there and not finishing. So we’ve got to find a way to get that fixed because we can get the ball there, but you don’t get points for a nice move — you get points for the ball going in the basket.”
Hartford’s lead grew to as large as 18 midway through the second half. The Hawks played incredibly sloppily late in the game, with eight turnovers in a 9-0 run for Stony Brook that got the Seawolves as close as seven points, but they could not fully capitalize on Hartford’s mistakes and took the double-digit loss at home.
The Hawks’ graduate transfers shined. Guard/forward Malik Ellison torched the Seawolves for a game-high 29 points, with a lethal mid-range jumper that consistently landed without fail, while guard Traci Carter picked Stony Brook’s pockets all night for seven steals. Foreman led all Seawolves with 18 points; he also made all four of his team’s triples.
Junior guard Elijah Olaniyi missed his fourth straight game with a high ankle sprain. As of Wednesday, he was still not practicing, and his coach noted the difficulty of the injury for a player who relies so much on athleticism.
“We’ve got some guys that are capable of playing at a higher level than then what they’re playing, particularly on the perimeter,” Ford said. “We need Makale, Miles [Latimer], Tyler [Stephenson-Moore], Tavin [Pierre Philippe] and Jordan [McKenzie] to all play a little better. That’s not to single anyone out, because when you get beat, it’s a team thing.”
Gueye, who left Saturday’s victory against Maine with a leg injury, played 17 minutes. Ford revealed that Gueye was taken out late to prevent re-injury after his quad flared up again.
The hunt for the No. 2 seed will continue on Saturday, Feb. 29 as the Seawolves travel up to the state capital to face the Albany Great Danes at SEFCU Arena for a 7 p.m. tip-off time. From here on out, every game is a must-win. A Stony Brook loss and a Hartford victory against Maine would eliminate the Seawolves from No. 2 contention.