Four days removed from one of the most humiliating home losses in recent memory, the Stony Brook men’s basketball team bounced back in style with a 79-62 domination over the Hofstra Pride on Wednesday, Dec. 8.
It was the Seawolves’ first win in the Battle of Long Island since 2015, when Steve Pikiell and Jameel Warney were still around. The 17-point margin of victory is Stony Brook’s largest ever in the rivalry, which Hofstra leads 24-6 all-time. The conflict — between public versus private universities, Suffolk County versus Nassau County — has been historically controlled by one school.
“Let’s be honest, Hofstra has had our number,” head coach Geno Ford said in a postgame press conference. “It’s not a team we’ve done well against recently. They’re in our backyard. That’s something that our guys need to want a little more than we have.”
One of the biggest keys to victory was how Stony Brook out-rebounded a Hofstra team with a similar guard-heavy look and a propensity to shoot the three. The Seawolves grabbed 20 offensive boards and won the glass 54-33 in total, scoring 18 second-chance points in the process. An early second-half possession saw Stony Brook make a fourth-chance bucket thanks to three offensive rebounds in a row by redshirt junior guard Tykei Greene.
“It’s not execution, it’s just effort,” Hofstra head coach Speedy Claxton said. “Rebounding is effort and toughness. Tykei Greene had six offensive rebounds and we know he’s a good offensive rebounder. There was no sticking to the game plan.”
Claxton, a first-year head coach at his alma mater, never lost to Stony Brook as a player.
“To me, the rebounding is the most exciting thing,” Ford said. “The 3-point makes are the sexy part of the game, but we won with the rebounding margin.”
Stony Brook was already acquainted with Hofstra’s leading scorer, graduate guard Zach Cooks, who transferred from NJIT and put up a 25-point performance against the Seawolves last season while in the America East. The Pride’s strong resume on the season included close losses on the road to No. 15 Houston, a Final Four team last year, and No. 20 Maryland. Per KenPom, they were the second-toughest team the Seawolves had faced yet this season behind Kansas.
When Hofstra scored seven unanswered points in a 76-second span to open up its largest lead of the night, it created deja vu from the Seawolves’ early second-half meltdown against Wagner, but Stony Brook would not make the same mistakes for a second game in a row.
“It was just being confident and trying to get stops on defense,” redshirt sophomore guard Tyler Stephenson-Moore said. “I trust my teammates to make the right plays, which they did, and we were able to score.”
Stephenson-Moore made two threes in Stony Brook’s immediate response of 11 straight points, allowing the hosts to take their first lead since the opening minutes of the game. He recorded his first career double-double with 14 points and 12 rebounds.
“They’ve manhandled us the last two years, so being able to beat them the way we beat them today feels great,” he said.
Once the Seawolves got back on top, graduate guard Jahlil Jenkins ensured that they would stay there. He was a man possessed in the second half, knocking down two straight triples and scoring 10 points in a row for his team. Jenkins led all players with 24 points, 17 of which came after halftime.
As a whole, Stony Brook put the game away in a stretch where it made eight of nine 3-point attempts. Redshirt junior forward Frankie Policelli did not miss a single shot from outside on the entire night. In contrast, Hofstra could not buy a bucket beyond the arc, starting the second half 0-for-9 and shooting 19% on the night for a team that entered the game firing at a 37% clip.
After Hofstra led by its largest margin of the game, Stony Brook hit back by scoring 41 of the next 53 points.
“Frankie woke up this morning at 6:30 sick. We had to get him COVID tested and he was negative,” Ford said. “We didn’t know if he was going to be able to play or not. At 11, he’s like, ‘I’m pretty sure it’s not COVID, and when it’s not, I’m playing.’ We had three guys not at the game tonight with the same thing.”
With three more games in their December homestand at Island Federal Arena, the Seawolves must aim for consistency with more performances like these and less like Wagner’s. Perhaps an encouraging sign: graduate guard Elijah Olaniyi was seen walking without crutches, though he remained in casual wear and missed his fifth straight game.
“We really appealed to guys’ toughness levels the last several days as you would expect we should,” Ford remarked about his messaging to his players after the Wagner defeat. “All we talked about was just being tough. There wasn’t a ton of great strategy. It was mental, wanting to walk out of here feeling proud about the effort that they put forward. They all can definitely do that after today.”
Next up — a rematch with Bryant on Saturday, Dec. 11, a team which beat a different-looking Stony Brook squad last season.