The Stony Brook men’s basketball team dropped two straight games in the final seconds — and for a moment, it looked as if it was about to be a third.
However, with seven ticks still left on the clock, Seawolves guard Anthony Roberts, the team’s leading scorer, became the hero of the night by racing down the distance of the court, overcoming a minor stumble and finishing with a layup through contact in six seconds.
The and-one gave Stony Brook the 87-85 lead over the UMass Lowell River Hawks on Wednesday, Feb. 9, snapping a three-game losing streak that began on the same day that the America East made its controversial decision to ban Stony Brook from postseason competition.
“That was the whole game plan,” Roberts, who ended with a game-high 28 points, said in a postgame press conference. “The coaches emphasized to just get it on the rim so we can crash and get a second chance.”
Right before Roberts saved the day, it felt as if Stony Brook would be snakebitten again by late-game defense. Despite taking an 84-82 lead with 20 seconds left on a pair of free throws from forward Frankie Policelli, UMass Lowell forward Allin Blunt worked into the post, his layup getting a friendly bounce into the net and drawing a foul. Facing a sudden 85-84 deficit, Stony Brook needed to make some magic work.
“Our first option was trying to get Anthony downhill,” head coach Geno Ford said. “We felt pretty confident that we had several guys that could make a shot in that situation.”
Stony Brook (14-10, 6-5 AE) shot 51% and drained 11 threes against UMass Lowell (12-11, 4-7 AE) after averaging only 62.6 points per game and going 21-for-87 (24%) from distance during their three-game skid. Guard Tykei Greene chipped in 22 points two days after setting a new career high against New Hampshire.
“We’ve been pretty down,” Greene said. “We didn’t take [the America East ban] too well because we worked too hard for it just to be pushed away like that. To get this win tonight means a lot to us.”
Greene started a perfect 3-for-3, all from three, and scored 11 points in a first half that Stony Brook mostly led. Even with River Hawks forward Max Brooks, their second-leading scorer sitting with two fouls, the Seawolves could never pull away, and UMass Lowell guard Kalil Thomas hit a corner three to tie the game at 38 before the break.
The second half saw each team make back-and-forth runs of its own. Stony Brook scored the first five points, only to watch UMass Lowell respond with eight unanswered. A technical foul against River Hawks head coach Pat Duquette for arguing about who touched the ball last gave the Seawolves some momentum, but not enough.
When Stony Brook took their largest lead of the night at 59-52, UMass Lowell immediately punched back with a 14-1 run in which the River Hawks made five straight shots, including a pair of triples, to take their widest advantage.
Neither team could miss in the second half. Stony Brook shot 52% and UMass Lowell an even better 55%. River Hawks forward John Hall scored a team-high 20 despite averaging only 4.1 points per game and shooting 18% from three before Wednesday. Five different River Hawks scored in double digits despite Brooks not playing most of the game.
“We couldn’t get out of touch because we weren’t stopping them much,” Ford said. “In those kinds of games, you’ve just got to keep score, and then luckily, we had the ball last.”
The referees called the game tightly. UMass Lowell took 28 attempts at the line compared to Stony Brook’s 24, and Greene was called for his fourth foul late.
“That helped them,” he said. “It gave UMass Lowell a chance to drive. They got some crazy fouls, but it is what it is.”
Lost in the shuffle of Roberts’ final drive were the key plays that gave Stony Brook an edge in this back-and-forth dogfight. Key threes from guards Tyler Stephenson-Moore and Juan Felix Rodriguez kept the Seawolves in it. Most notably, Roberts blocked a Brooks layup with 1:44 to go, and Rodriguez found Greene for the transition triple to put the Seawolves up 82-80.
Roberts’ 9-for-18 night was well-needed after the junior scored an uncharacteristic four points against Binghamton and eight versus New Hampshire.
“Anthony’s capable of what he did tonight — 28 and six,” Ford said. “He had one okay game against NJIT and two really bad games by his standards, and tonight he was terrific. There are times when he looks like the best player in the conference, and he does that in spurts. We need that Anthony, and when we get that Anthony, we usually win.”