The Stony Brook men’s basketball team benefitted from statistical anomalies in the first half and withstood a reversion to the mean in the second half to come out on top over the Hartford Hawks 88-82 on Saturday, Feb. 19.
“There’s always some defensive blown assignments, but good offense beats defense anytime,” head coach Geno Ford said in a postgame press conference. “Luckily, in the last couple minutes, we did get a couple stops and that’s why we got some separation, but it was a dogfight, obviously, to the end.”
Up by 15 points in the first half, Stony Brook (16-11, 8-6 AE) watched Hartford (8-17, 6-7 AE) claw back to within one with plenty of time still on the scoreboard. Hartford missed its first 12 3-point attempts of the game, but made six of seven attempts during a seven-minute burst in the second half.
Playing shorthanded, Stony Brook received game-saving plays from its consistent contributors in the final 95 seconds of the contest. Guard Tykei Greene secured another double-double by reaching out for his 10th rebound off a missed Hartford three. Immediately after, guard Omar Habwe pulled in an offensive board that allowed the Seawolves to kill more clock — and for guard Anthony Roberts to ice the game.
Roberts’ late-clock triple extended Stony Brook’s lead to eight points with 49 seconds left, and the Seawolves forced the Hawks into multiple inbound turnovers to hang on.
Roberts led the team with 27 points; he hit all nine free throws and is averaging 29.5 points per contest over the last four games. Greene’s 21-point, 10-rebound double-double was his sixth of the season and contributed to his fourth 20-point game in the last five outings. Not to be lost in his teammates’ successes was guard Tyler Stephenson-Moore, who scored a season-high 17 points and shot 5-for-7 from downtown.
“[Greene] works his butt off, man,” Ford said. “On our off days, he comes in and gets extra shots — he doesn’t take off days. There’s a reason why he’s gotten so much better and he’s playing well. It’s just been toughness and work ethic.”
Ford also highlighted Stephenson-Moore’s abilities as a two-way player, labeling him the only person on the team who is excellent at keeping the ball in front.
Despite shooting an uncharacteristic 1-for-14 (7%) from beyond the arc in the first half, Hartford was an efficient 12-for-16 (75%) within the perimeter to still shoot 43% overall. Hawks guard Austin Williams exploited the Seawolves’ interior deficiencies for 27 points, and the team as a whole made 68% of its inside shots.
After Hartford made it a 72-71 game, the Hawks went scoreless for the next three minutes. This sequence allowed the Seawolves to overcome their mistakes from earlier in the half — ones that allowed Hartford to make this a brand new ballgame. The Hawks scored nine points in just over a minute to turn a 12-point hole into a one-possession affair.
“[Hartford guard David] Schriver hit a couple that we contested well, and we got to him,” Ford said. “But, we had a few blown switches.”
Saturday also marked Stony Brook Children’s Hospital Night, an annual tradition dating back to the 2018-19 season. Seawolves players each sported the name of a hospital patient on the backs of their jerseys in lieu of their own name, and the Spirit of Stony Brook Marching Band treated the crowd to a special halftime performance dedicated to the children in care.
On the special night, the Seawolves’ 88 points created a new season high, and they shot an even 50% from both the floor and from three.
The key highlight play of the first half came from a team effort. Roberts forced a steal, and while falling to the floor, was able to find Stephenson-Moore, who sprinted upcourt before dishing it off to Greene, who ended the transition play with a loud, showy dunk in which he hung off the rim for a few seconds before letting go.
Greene also turned heads with a reverse dunk that came from Stephenson-Moore’s cross-court pass after a defensive rebound.
Stony Brook’s point guard depth will be tested, with Roberts playing 40 minutes against UMBC and 39 against Hartford and a back-to-back in Connecticut scheduled for Sunday. Kaine Roberts, a freshman guard from Japan, played eight minutes on Saturday and ran point when Anthony Roberts briefly sat.
Kaine Roberts has rarely been used outside of garbage time scenarios this season, but he has an opportunity to play a more significant role moving forward with Stony Brook’s top two point guards from opening night — Jahlil Jenkins and Juan Felix Rodriguez — both out for the season.
Having to make the overnight trip in order to play this same Hartford squad less than 24 hours after the end of Saturday’s game is not an experience that Ford is used to; the scheduling quirk came about because the game at Hartford was first slated for Jan. 2, before the Hawks were shut down with COVID-19 cases.
“We’re going to have to get on a bus for three hours here and get up there and get to bed and rally to do it again tomorrow,” he said. “You don’t ever want to risk getting swept in a weekend series. We avoided that by winning tonight, and tomorrow will be a whole new ballgame. I hope they shoot like they shot in the first half tomorrow again, instead of the second half.”