Guard Tykei Greene facing off against an opposing Binghamton player during the game on Feb 2. Greene scored a career high of 23 points during the game against New Hampshire on Feb 7. CAMRON WANG/THE STATESMAN

Since the Stony Brook men’s basketball team learned that it would be ineligible for postseason play following the school’s departure from the America East, its players have not lost any of their competitive fire. 

They just can’t hit 3-pointers.

Even a career-high 23 points from guard Tykei Greene could not prevent New Hampshire forward Jayden Martinez from tipping in a missed Wildcats 3-pointer with one second on the clock to hand Stony Brook (13-10, 5-5 AE) its third straight loss, this one 67-65 at home Monday night.

Guard Juan Felix Rodriguez’s layup tied the score with 13 seconds remaining. So did guard Jahlil Jenkins’ two foul shots a minute earlier, which made him the 12th active Division I player with 2,000 career points. 

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But the Seawolves’ poor defense and two late charging fouls could not stop another loss in the final seconds.

Greene scored nine points in the first six minutes of the game and went 8-for-15 with 10 rebounds to keep Stony Brook battling in an otherwise sloppy first half. But as head coach Geno Ford pointed out, the team aside from Greene shot 1-for-19 from 3-point range. Just one more 3-pointer would have changed the game’s outcome.

“Two issues that I know everybody is tired of talking about: we have a hard time staying in front of the ball, and they dribble drove us like crazy,” Ford said in a postgame press conference. “The last five, six minutes, again, and we can’t get a defensive rebound. Those are plays that we were making two weeks ago, and now for whatever reason, we’re not making them.”

Still, there’s something to be said for the passion displayed by a team now playing for nothing besides pride. The Seawolves’ best stretch of the game came while down eight points in the second half, culminating in a three-point play by guard Juan Felix Rodriguez that gave Stony Brook a 51-50 lead and prevented New Hampshire (10-9, 5-5 AE) from slowing down the pace of the game.

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“When you’re 22 years old and you’ve been in locker rooms for four years, you’ve heard a lot of motivational talks,” Ford said. “Even though it’s the right message, and you know it’s the right message, sometimes those things are a little harder to soak in. There are guys that are competing, it’s just that our margin of error is what it is and we’re not getting the big plays that we really need to have.”

Greene’s strong opening included two 3-pointers and ended with a dunk between three Wildcats defenders that put Stony Brook up 12-8. He finished the first half with 14 points and a powerful block at the boards that helped preserve the Seawolves’ early lead.

“I thought Tykei really was locked in … and was trying to will us to a win,” Ford said. “I thought he had his best game of the year statistically. I give the kid a lot of credit. It’s unfortunate that it comes on a loss.”

But New Hampshire, after missing its first four 3-pointers, finally cashed in on the Seawolves’ focus on interior defense by sinking a few uncontested shots from beyond the arc to head into halftime with a 34-29 lead. The Wildcats did it all without their second-leading scorer, forward Nick Guadarrama, out with an injury.

Guard Jahlil Jenkins opened the second half by crossing up forward Chris Lester for an impressive jumper and added a layup minutes later, but New Hampshire guard Qon Murphy followed each of Jenkins’ shots with layups of his own. Murphy finished with a career-high 26 points.

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Rodriguez’s 3-point play off an assist from forward Jaden Sayles gave Stony Brook its fervor back, but Lester squeezed a layup between four defenders to give the Wildcats a 56-53 lead with five minutes left.

The game-winner came off a missed Murphy 3-pointer. Greene bobbled the rebound, allowing Martinez to grab the ball over Greene’s head and score an easy layup between two other defenders as the buzzer sounded.

Stony Brook’s late miscues — missed defensive rebounds, failing to stop guard Blondeau Tchoukuiegno’s desperate, diving layup that gave the Wildcats a 65-63 lead — are easy to excuse when stacked against all the 3-pointers New Hampshire missed down the stretch. 

But at this point in the season, ‘one mistake away’ won’t cut it for the Seawolves.

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