Even if it didn’t happen the way they wanted it to, the Stony Brook men’s basketball team clinched the No. 2 seed in the 2020 Hercules Tires America East Men’s Basketball Playoffs, and the multiple home games that come with it.
Stony Brook (19-12, 10-6) saw the game blow wide open in the second half, suffering a 75-67 defeat to the UMBC Retrievers (15-16, 8-8) on Tuesday, March 3 at the UMBC Event Center, stumbling into the quarterfinals having lost four of their last seven contests.
The Seawolves’ offense wilted without junior guard Elijah Olaniyi, who made his return from a high ankle sprain on Tuesday after missing the last five games.
“It was a disappointing end to our regular season for sure,” head coach Geno Ford said in a press release. “But, it was a great season for us and now we are ready for the conference tournament and can’t wait for Saturday night in front of our home fans.”
Olaniyi’s quiet return — two points in 18 minutes — was overshadowed as redshirt-junior guard Makale Foreman quickly established himself as the star of the night. He hit on his first five 3-pointers and finished with a season-high 26 points on 8-for-10 shooting from downtown. Having made 100 buckets from beyond the arc in the campaign, Foreman broke the program’s single-season 3-pointer record, previously held by Bryan Dougher with 95 in 2009-10.
Guided by Foreman, the Seawolves had the offensive breakout that they had been waiting for over the last month, shooting 50% from the field and 52% from beyond the arc. Freshman guard Tyler Stephenson-Moore also added a double-digit performance with 12 points.
However, Stony Brook was neutralized by a similarly hot-shooting UMBC squad, who made 45% of their field goals and 46% of their threes.
The Retrievers led for most of the first half, dominating the battle in the paint to withstand Foreman’s barrage. Stony Brook trailed 36-35 at the break, but the Seawolves scored the first five points after halftime to go up 40-36, their largest lead of the entire contest.
Over the next 11 and a half minutes, UMBC embarked on a 28-10 run in a stretch that saw the Retrievers go 5-for-8 from three while Stony Brook committed five turnovers.
An alley-oop attempt gone wrong led to a long ball on the other end, and on the subsequent possession, Foreman had the ball stripped from him by Retrievers senior guard K.J. Jackson for an easy basket. Ford immediately called timeout — the Seawolves were down by eight.
The deficit would continue to grow. UMBC’s lead was as large as 14 with 6:48 remaining in the game, taking advantage of one-and-one opportunities at the line to sink Stony Brook’s chances of a comeback. Jackson, one of four Retrievers players to score in double digits, led his team with 25 points on 8-for-15 shooting.
Despite the loss, the Seawolves finished in second place in the America East regular season standings as Hartford was upset 71-65 at home by eighth-place Maine to finish with a 9-7 conference record.
This marks the ninth time in the last 11 seasons that Stony Brook has finished in the top two of the America East — and the second time in four years that the feat was accomplished by a first-year head coach.
Island Federal Arena will play host to a quarterfinal game on Saturday, March 7 when Stony Brook takes on the No. 7-seeded Albany Great Danes for the second time in seven days.
The Seawolves swept the regular season matchups between the two teams and have historically had good fortune in the first round of the America East Tournament, winning nine such contests in a row before being stunned last year by Binghamton.