Since being barred from the postseason by the America East Conference, the Stony Brook men’s basketball team has seen its campaign take a few more bumps in the road.
A game-winning 3-pointer with two seconds left from forward Miles Coleman sent the Seawolves to their second straight defeat, 65-62 against the NJIT Highlanders on Saturday, Feb. 5.
Consistently in the top two of the conference standings this year, Stony Brook (13-9, 5-4 AE) dropped its second straight, this time against an NJIT (9-12, 4-7 AE) team which entered having lost seven in a row.
The defeat dropped the Seawolves from second place to fourth, with Binghamton and UMBC both leaping the conference’s preseason favorites.
“Our guys were able to fight hard tonight but just could not make enough winning plays down the stretch,” head coach Geno Ford said in a press release. “I’m proud of our guys being able to claw back late but now we have to turn the page, as we have a quick turnaround to bring in a good New Hampshire team on Monday night.”
Early on, NJIT fed the ball inside to its bigs, including forward Keeshawn Mason, a freshman who entered averaging 1.4 points per game this season. His single game career-high of seven was already doubled by halftime as he dropped 14 points. Stony Brook’s offensive gameplan revolved around trusting its shooters to convert from beyond the arc, taking 19 first-half threes out of 31 total shots.
However, the only Seawolves player to punish NJIT outside was forward Frankie Policelli, who accounted for three of the team’s five successful first-half triples. He guided Stony Brook to a 35-29 lead before NJIT, who started the game 1-for-9 from outside, converted threes on three straight possessions for a 38-37 advantage at the break.
Coleman, NJIT’s leading scorer, picked up two quick fouls in the opening ticks of the second half. Both him and forward Matt Faw, who ended the game with 10 points and eight rebounds, sat for extended periods of the second half with four fouls, as did Stony Brook guard Anthony Roberts. Three of Roberts’ four infractions were charges.
Even with two of NJIT’s key players off the court, Stony Brook could not take advantage of the situation and get hot with the ball. The Seawolves attempted only eight 3-pointers in the second half and missed on all but one. For the game, Stony Brook shot 6-for-27 (22%) from outside.
Forward Jaden Sayles had a solid game as his team’s paint presence, recording 10 points on 4-for-6 shooting, but other Seawolves also missed layups that would usually fall. Starting point guard Jahlil Jenkins attempted only five shots, none in the game’s final 17 minutes.
When it looked like the Highlanders were about to pull away with the game, Stony Brook made one final push. Down 60-55 with four minutes left, Ford re-inserted Roberts and the decision immediately paid off. NJIT committed two straight turnovers, allowing Roberts to make a pair of buckets. The second one was the Seawolves’ only successful 3-pointer of the second half, but it could not have come at a more opportune time as the redshirt junior knotted the game at 60 apiece.
Coleman, still with four fouls, gave NJIT the 62-60 lead back on the next possession. In a play emblematic of Stony Brook’s luck all night, Policelli tried to fire back with a 3-pointer that rattled off every part of the rim before falling out. Still, guard Juan Felix Rodriguez drove to the hoop for the game-tying layup with 26 seconds left.
Unfortunately, there was enough time for one more Highlanders possession. It threatened to end in disaster for the home team when the ball was trapped, but NJIT had one final timeout to burn. A play was drawn up with eight ticks left on the clock, where Coleman made Rodriguez miss with the pump fake and ended the game.
Policelli and Roberts both led the team with 15 points each, but Coleman’s bucket was the only way to cap off a week where the Seawolves were hit with every disappointment possible.