The Stony Brook men’s basketball team was no match for the reigning Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) champions, suffering its first loss as a member of the conference.
The Seawolves (6-10, 2-1 CAA) saw their first winning streak of the season snapped on Saturday, as the Towson Tigers defeated them 67-55 in front of their home crowd. When it mattered most, Stony Brook could not make the plays it needed at either end of the court.
Towson made its presence felt early and often on the interior, and much of that plan was centered around forward Charles Thompson. Thompson once again showed why he was an All-CAA selection a year ago, with his physicality in the post leading to 12 points and three rebounds in the first half. All 12 of his points were scored in the paint, as the Tigers outscored Stony Brook 18-6 from that area.
“[Thompson] physically got on us and banged us and scored,” head coach Geno Ford said in a postgame press conference. “Those are the plays that we have been able to stop, and we could not stop those.”
Despite the challenge, Stony Brook kept Towson within striking distance in the first half. Forward Kenan Sarvan connected from deep three times, accounting for all nine of his first half points. Guard Tyler Stephenson-Moore also contributed nine points as the Seawolves trailed 30-22 going into the break.
With 18:14 remaining in the second half, Towson forward Sekou Sylla drained a turnaround jump shot to put his team up 35-24. This sparked a three-and-a-half minute span where neither team missed a shot.
On the next possession, forward Frankie Policelli made a mid-range jump shot through three Tigers players and drew a foul. After he converted the and-one, Towson responded immediately with a three-pointer from guard Nygel Russell.
On the next trip down the floor, Stephenson-Moore made a turnaround jump shot of his own to cut the deficit to nine points with 17:02 remaining. Less than 30 seconds later, Russell connected from deep again to bring the Tigers’ lead back up to 12.
Just 18 seconds later, Policelli knocked down a three-pointer, only for Towson guard Nicolas Timberlake to answer with a three of his own. Sarvan responded by draining a three, but the Tigers got the last laugh with a corner three from guard Ryan Conway.
After that shooting fiesta, the Tigers led 47-35 with 14:54 remaining.
With less than 12 minutes to play, Stony Brook cut the deficit back to nine points after a three-pointer from center Keenan Fitzmorris. However, the Seawolves lost a ton of momentum after guard Tanahj Pettway missed a wide-open layup with 10:09 remaining. Pettway stole the ball from Timberlake and pushed the fastbreak, but did not finish at the basket. His layup rolled off the side of the rim, much to the chagrin of the crowd.
“That was the end of the game,” Ford said. “That didn’t get us beat, but that was it. It was over at that point. We needed that layup and then we needed a stop … It was kind of a deflating moment.”
Failing to cut the deficit to seven points tarnished the chance for a Seawolves comeback. Towson went on a 12-2 run following the blown scoring opportunity, putting the game out of Stony Brook’s reach.
Timberlake finished with 20 points on 7-of-13 shooting from the field and was 3-for-7 from three-point territory. The All-CAA First Team selection also contributed six assists, six rebounds and a block in the win.
Towson was short-handed coming into the matchup, as it was missing guard Cam Holden. The Tigers did just fine without their second-leading scorer, shooting 48.2% from the field and 45% from three-point range. Stony Brook came into the game with the best shot defense in the CAA.
Despite the poor defensive numbers, Ford does not believe that the performance was bad. Ford simply credited Towson for hitting tough shots against them.
“There was one that I thought was wide open. The other ones were not that poorly contested,” Ford said. “So I am going to give them a lot of credit for good offense.”
Stephenson-Moore led Stony Brook with 15 points on 6-of-15 shooting, but was only 1-for-6 from deep. The senior played 39 minutes on Saturday, and he now ranks third in the country in minutes-per-game with 37.4. Over his last seven games, he is only shooting 35.2% from the field. He acknowledges that fatigue may be a factor in his struggles, but says that his confidence must be better as well.
“Yeah, I would definitely say fatigue,” Stephenson-Moore said. “But most of the shots I have been getting, I think I just need to have some confidence in them.”
Sarvan scored 12 points on 4-of-6 shooting from deep. Though he was dangerous from beyond the arc, he missed all of his two-pointers against Towson.
“It is not good enough,” Sarvan said. “The threes — 4-for-6 is not bad — but I can not go 4-for-10 from the field. I have to make my twos.”
Ford confirmed that guards Aaron Clarke and Jared Frey will not be making a return this season. With those pieces missing, Stony Brook will rely heavily on its current guard rotation as the season goes on.
The Seawolves will look to bounce back on Thursday when they host the Drexel Dragons at Island Federal Arena. Opening tipoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. The Dragons are 9-7 on the year and are 3-1 in the CAA. They are coming off a 67-35 blowout win over Monmouth on Saturday.