Great Danes sophomore guard Cameron Healy tried as hard as anyone could to avoid going home in the first round of the conference playoffs. He single-handedly put his team on his back, exploding for 21 points in the second half in an attempt to will his way into an upset of the No. 2-seeded Stony Brook men’s basketball team.
Healy couldn’t do it. When all was said and done, and Danes sophomore guard Antonio Rizzuto’s heave at the buzzer bounced off the rim, Stony Brook (20-12, 10-6) held on for the 76-73 victory over the Albany Great Danes (14-18, 7-9) in a tug-of-war battle on Saturday, March 7 at Island Federal Arena.
“We tried the whole second half to deny [Healy] the ball and beat him through screens,” head coach Geno Ford said in a postgame press conference. “He was able to just second and third cut [us], he just was constant movement and he was able to wiggle by us on the bounce a couple times late in the shot clock … We actually, a couple times, tried to catch him off guard with a quick trap, and he had no issues. He saw it, sensed it and made the right pass. He was great tonight.”
The Seawolves’ offense in the second half was as alive as it had been all season, shooting 59% and going 7-for-9 from beyond the arc. It was matched by a 50% performance by the Great Danes, who were carried by the hot hand of their wing after falling down by eight with 11 minutes to go in the game.
In a losing effort, Healy led all players with 28 points. Redshirt-junior guard Makale Foreman was Stony Brook’s top scorer at 23, the Chattanooga transfer’s second straight 20-point game. Five different Seawolves scored in double digits for the first time since Nov. 11, 2019.
“I’m feeling pretty good,” Foreman said in a postgame press conference. “Credit to my teammates for finding me. I know I went through a little slump, but they always trust me.”
Foreman hit the shot of the game for Stony Brook, a quick 3-pointer off a dime to tie the score at 70. Albany sophomore center Brent Hank was sent to the line on the next possession but made only one free throw. Although the Danes rebounded his miss, Hank committed a behind-the-back foul trying to corral a missed three.
Sophomore guard Miles Latimer hit both free throws, putting Stony Brook up 72-71. The Seawolves were clutch at the charity stripe late, making all six of their attempts in the final minute of the game.
“Stony Brook’s good,” Albany head coach Will Brown said in a postgame press conference. “I think physically and athletically, they’re the best team in the league. They have length at center that no one else has, and they have two of them. They’ve got size and athleticism at every position.”
Both teams had what appeared to be commanding leads in the second half only to watch the other one climb right back into business. The Seawolves used a 22-7 run to turn a 7-point deficit into an 8-point advantage; in the stretch, Stony Brook hit on nine of their 10 field goals and all five of their attempts from downtown. Junior guard Elijah Olaniyi sank a left-wing three before grabbing a steal and feeding the ball to junior forward Mouhamadou Gueye, who slammed it down to get the crowd roaring up 54-46.
It was then that Healy came alive. With just seven points on the night, he converted on all of his next five 3-point attempts, the last of which tied the game up at 66. On the Danes’ ensuing possession, he weaved his way through the paint for a layup to cap off a personal 8-0 run that gave Albany a slim 68-66 lead. At that point, Healy had scored 17 of Albany’s last 19 points.
The sophomore did not even earn the start on Saturday night as injuries sapped his effectiveness over the last month, but the performance snapped a string of seven straight single-digit scoring games for a player who averaged 16.4 points per game prior to the hip/back ailment.
“I knew that I was going to be aggressive,” Healy said in a postgame press conference. “Shots hadn’t been falling for me recently. I just tried to get out of my own way in my head and just stick to my game plan. I wanted to win for the seniors, and I wasn’t ready to go home.”
Stony Brook advances to the America East semifinals, where they will face the Hartford Hawks (17-15, 9-7) on Tuesday, March 10 at 7 p.m. — the only team to have swept the Seawolves in the conference regular season. The Hawks defeated UMass Lowell 89-75 in their quarterfinal matchup. For the Seawolves, the Hawks present a formidable challenge for a team that stands two games away from the NCAA Tournament.
“We’re going to have to remember that we’re wearing white jerseys on Tuesday night because the last time they were here, we threw them the ball 16 times,” Ford said. “Hopefully we get a nice big crowd on Tuesday. I know it’s a weeknight, but we need another good turnout and a lot of buzz in the building because we’ve got our hands full. They’re a really good team.”