After hanging on to a lead for more than half of the contest, the Stony Brook men’s basketball team was unable to secure its second straight win.
Though the Seawolves (3-8) fought hard in Staten Island, N.Y., their effort was not enough to win their second-straight game. They fell to the Wagner Seahawks 58-55 on Thursday in a game that featured 14 lead changes and seven ties.
Stony Brook’s two captains led the charge in the first half. After trailing for the first 10:50 of play, a three-pointer from forward Frankie Policelli helped the Seawolves snag the lead. Policelli scored 10 points on 4-of-4 shooting in the first half. Guard Tyler Stephenson-Moore scored 11 points, helping the team to take a 32-26 lead into the break.
The Seawolves remained in control after halftime. With 17:14 remaining, center Keenan Fitzmorris erased a shot on the defensive end. Following the block, guard Kaine Roberts pushed the ball up the court and connected from deep to give Stony Brook a five-point lead.
Wagner stayed within striking distance and smelled blood in the water when Stony Brook began to run out of gas. An 8-2 run allowed Wagner to take the lead back, going up 40-39 after a three-pointer from guard Delonnie Hunt. It was the first of 12 lead changes that occurred over the remaining 14:18 of play.
The rest of the game was a dogfight with neither squad willing to surrender. Hot shooting by Wagner guard Zaire Williams kept Wagner in the driver’s seat, but costly fouls helped the Seawolves keep it close.
“We really competed hard,” head coach Geno Ford said in a postgame interview with Stony Brook Athletics. “I am super proud of the effort we gave.”
The whistles did not favor the Seahawks the entire night. Stony Brook made a season-high 24 free throws, including 13 in the second half. This made up for a lack of points elsewhere for the Seawolves. They shot only 25% from the floor after halftime, a big drop-off from their 47.6% shooting before the break.
After trading blows back-and-forth, the Seawolves found themselves down 53-52 with less than two minutes remaining. They were back on top after two clutch free throws by Roberts, giving him a career-high six makes from the line.
On the next possession, Wagner broke down Stony Brook’s zone defense to find forward Jahbril Price-Noel, who promptly connected from deep to take a 55-54 lead. This was the Seahawks’ sixth three-pointer of the half, giving them a lead they did not relinquish.
The Seawolves gave their best effort to regain the lead. Down 56-54, Fitzmorris got fouled on a putback attempt and was awarded free throws to tie the game. He missed the first and made the second, but Wagner knocked down two more free throws to stretch its lead to three.
Stony Brook had one last opportunity to send it to overtime when Stephenson-Moore was sent to the line with five seconds remaining. After going 9-for-9 from the stripe on the night, the guard missed his first attempt. He purposefully missed the second attempt, but the Seawolves were not able to corral the rebound.
“We went on the road and had plenty of chances to win the game in the last four minutes,” Ford said. “We had nine turnovers in the second half and that’s why we came up short. It’s hard to play the amount of minutes that our perimeter guys are playing, but we made some progress in many areas.”
It was a defensive slugfest from both teams. Stony Brook recorded a season-high six blocks, including a career-high three from Fitzmorris. However, Wagner’s press-defense caused fits and forced the Seawolves to commit 14 turnovers.
With the absence of guard Aaron Clarke, only seven players suited up for Stony Brook on Monday. The starters were able to carry the load for most of the game, as each one played over 31 minutes. However, the fatigue proved to be too much. The lack of bench production was a difference-maker for the Seawolves, only getting two points from their reserves. Meanwhile, Wagner’s bench spotted 27 points.
There are many positives to pull from the loss for the Seawolves. Policelli finished with 13 points and 11 rebounds on 5-of-6 shooting, posting his fourth double-double of the season. Fitzmorris finished with 11 points, five rebounds and two assists. He shot 7-of-9 from the free-throw line.
Stony Brook remains the best defensive-rebounding team in the conference, pulling down 28 on Thursday.
After playing all 40 minutes on Monday, Stephenson-Moore played 39 minutes in the loss to Wagner. He is currently 11th in the nation in minutes per game at 36.5. Despite playing a productive game with 17 points and seven rebounds, the Seawolves will need to give their leading scorer some rest as conference play approaches.
The Seawolves will look to bounce back on Sunday when they return home to take on Army West Point. The Black Knights are 5-6 on the season and are coming off a 77-67 loss to Rhode Island on Saturday.