Stony Brook men’s basketball team playing the Point Park Pioneers on Dec. 15. The Seawolves won with a final score of 83-39.  ETHAN TAM/THE STATESMAN

The Stony Brook men’s basketball team remains undefeated at their home confines of Island Federal Arena this season, as the Seawolves thoroughly beat up on an NAIA opponent, the Point Park Pioneers, by a score of 83-39 on Tuesday, Dec. 15 in their final game before the start of America East Conference play, improving to 2-4.

“Today was good because we got to get a little confidence and feel good about ourselves,” head coach Geno Ford said in a postgame press conference. “We played good teams on the road. We haven’t won those games, and so what happens is, guys start to get a little down. That’s human nature. I think we’ve been trying to battle through it. So getting a win here, going into conference [play], I think is a positive for us.”

This contest was another game that was not originally on Stony Brook’s slate, as it was scheduled 11 days in advance after cancelations left the Seawolves with just one home non-conference game. It was the first home game for the team since an overtime squeaker over Fairfield on Dec. 4.

The Seawolves needed a tune-up in order to snap their three-game losing streak. Ford admitted following Saturday’s defeat at Bryant that although it would be more fun to gain confidence from winning, his team needed the “mental toughness” to learn from losing.

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Stony Brook led for the entire game against the lower-division opponent, and Ford was able to take his starters out with under six minutes remaining in the game as the Seawolves’ lead crossed 40 points. The 44-point margin of victory was the largest for the Stony Brook program since the Seawolves defeated Farmingdale State by 47 points last season on Nov. 11, 2019.

For the first time this season, Ford made changes to his starting five. Senior forward Omar Habwe, the Mount St. Mary’s transfer, earned a starting spot over senior forward Mouhamadou Gueye. Habwe had his best game of the year so far last Saturday, scoring 10 points off the bench against Bryant.

“Omar Habwe has been playing well and Mo Gueye has not,” Ford said. “[Gueye] is a huge key for us. He’s an all-conference caliber player. But, you’ve still got to perform. Omar has really played well, so I wanted to give a different look. Obviously, it was successful … Mo plays starter minutes whether he’s introduced before the game or not.”

Despite coming off the bench, Gueye still decorated the scoreboard with an all-around effort: eight points, seven rebounds, seven assists, four steals and six blocks, leading all players in the latter three categories.

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Habwe improved his season high again on Tuesday, scoring 12 points, which was tied with junior guard Juan Felix Rodriguez as a team high. His progression has been much needed for the Seawolves, especially as he started the season playing just two mop-up minutes at Saint Peter’s.

“It feels great, honestly,” Habwe said in a postgame press conference. “I’m pretty much just coming early every morning, even in season, even in the offseason, just getting to feel good shooting the ball, handling the ball … I feel great just coming out and starting, doing what I can to help the team win.”

Junior guard Tykei Greene continued his impressive performance on the boards, with another 10 rebounds. He currently leads the team with 7.3 per game. Senior forward Jaden Sayles extended his streak of six straight double-digit games to start his Stony Brook career.

“I’m still kind of getting used to it because it’s pretty much a complete 180 from what I was doing at Akron,” Sayles said about his offensive role in a postgame press conference. “I feel like I’ve handled it well. I’m a pretty big part of this team and people actually take my word seriously.”

Stony Brook scored the first seven points of the game, with their advantage in size over an NAIA opponent most visible on the glass and in interior defense. Although Point Park used a pair of three-pointers to remain within distance early on, the Seawolves eventually pulled away, with their lead crossing 10 points with 9:20 left and 20 points with 3:30 left in the first half.

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The Seawolves entered the intermission up 40-17, shooting 59% (16-for-27) while holding the Pioneers to a 19% (5-for-26) field goal rate. Point Park never stood a chance against Stony Brook’s imposing defense, pressured into numerous shot clock violations and turnovers.

In a tune-up game, Ford looked specifically for areas of improvement to target.

“I wanted to see two things,” he said. “I wanted to see execution out of timeouts on offense, which was not very good … We weren’t real sharp in terms of paying attention in huddles and coming out and executing what we drew up … [and] I wanted to see ball pressure defensively because we’ve not been able to keep the ball in front. We’ve just gotten dribble-whipped like crazy.”

Stony Brook begins conference play this weekend with a series of back-to-back games against the Binghamton Bearcats on the road on Saturday, Dec. 19 and Sunday, Dec. 20 at 2 p.m. at the Binghamton University Events Center in Vestal, New York.

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