Redshirt junior guard Anthony Roberts with the ball against Central Connecticut on Dec. 14, 2021. Roberts came off the bench to drop a game-high 25 points against Binghamton on Jan. 19. ETHAN TAM/THE STATESMAN

The Stony Brook men’s basketball team almost let another second-half lead slip away from them before ultimately reigning victorious on the road over the Binghamton Bearcats, 74-71, on Wednesday, Jan. 19.

Stony Brook (11-6, 3-1 AE) led by nine points with two minutes left, but multiple turnovers and the inability to secure transition stops allowed Binghamton (6-8, 3-2 AE) to make it a one-point game in the closing moments. Timely free-throw shooting allowed the Seawolves to ultimately leave Vestal unscathed.

“I’m very pleased with a total team win on the road,” head coach Geno Ford said in a press release. “It was a short turnaround for us and we had so many guys step up.”

Following Monday’s victory over UMBC, Ford preached a newfound reliance on analytic statistics such as plus-minus. This resulted in redshirt junior guard Juan Felix Rodriguez and redshirt sophomore guard Tyler Stephenson-Moore earning spots in the starting lineup in lieu of graduate guard Elijah Olaniyi and redshirt junior guard Anthony Roberts, two of Stony Brook’s most effective offensive weapons.

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Despite coming off the bench, Roberts led all players with 25 points on 8-for-16 shooting and a crucial 9-for-10 performance at the line. Olaniyi did not play.

Binghamton, habitually an America East doormat over the last decade, got off to a surprising 3-1 start in conference play under first-year head coach Levell Sanders, entering the contest with the league’s second best record. It was their best America East start in 11 years. This year’s Bearcats would not be the easy pushover that they had been since their program was torpedoed by scandal.

The Seawolves led by seven points early in the first half, but their shooting quickly went cold as they allowed the Bearcats to score the next 10 points and grab the lead. Binghamton remained in the game for most of the first half by sinking timely 3-point shots before graduate guard Jahlil Jenkins was fouled on an attempt beyond the arc with five seconds left and made all three of his free throws to give Stony Brook a 38-32 lead heading into intermission.

The second half was called more tightly by the referees. Senior forward Jaden Sayles took over and established Stony Brook’s inside presence, scoring 10 of his 11 points after halftime. His effort was much needed, especially because the Seawolves missed all seven of their outside attempts in the frame.

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A pivotal swing came with four minutes remaining. Rodriguez was called for a flagrant foul but Binghamton sophomore guard John McGriff, a St. John’s transfer, missed both of his free throws and the Bearcats came up empty on the extra possession. A minute later, Binghamton committed a flagrant; Rodriguez made one of his foul shots and Roberts sank the free fadeaway jumper to put the Seawolves up by seven.

Holding a 70-61 lead with two minutes left, Jenkins would turn the ball over in the frontcourt before Rodriguez committed a travel in the backcourt on back-to-back possessions. The Bearcats scored on both of these gifts to whittle their deficit down to four. Roberts’ following desperation heave with the shot clock winding down missed — on the other end, Binghamton junior guard Tyler Bertram drained a much-needed three to suddenly make it a 70-69 game.

Stony Brook attacked the rim enough earlier in the game to get to the line in great abundance, and it was their clutchness late at the charity stripe that secured the victory. The Seawolves shot 27-for-34 (79%) on free throws, compared to the Bearcats’ abysmal 9-for-19 (47%). 

“Down the stretch, Jahlil [Jenkins] and Frankie [Policelli] made clutch free throws that we had to have to finish the game off,” Ford said.

Stony Brook also narrowly won the rebound battle 43-42, withstanding a 14-point, 11-rebound double-double by Binghamton senior guard Christian Hinckson through the 12-rebound effort of its very own redshirt junior guard Tykei Greene.

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Fresh off the narrow victory, the Seawolves remain in upstate New York on Saturday, Jan. 22 to face another in-state rival in the Albany Great Danes at 7 p.m.

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