In a game that saw eight ties and 10 lead changes, guard Tyler Stephenson-Moore gave the Stony Brook men’s basketball team the last laugh.
Looking to bounce back from a loss on Saturday, the Seawolves (7-10, 3-1 CAA) returned to Island Federal Arena to take on the Drexel Dragons on Thursday. Given a boost by its largest home crowd of the year, Stony Brook won an exhilarating back-and-forth game 67-66.
Down by one point with 22 seconds remaining, the Seawolves looked to their captain to bring them to victory. Coming off a screen from forward Frankie Policelli, Stephenson-Moore drove the lane and put up a floater. The ball bounced on the rim twice before falling through the hoop, giving Stony Brook the lead with 10 seconds remaining.
With one last chance to win it, the Dragons stormed down the court. Drexel Guard Coletrane Washington fed center Amari Williams to take the final shot. From just inside the free-throw line, Williams put up a contested jumper over center Keenan Fitzmorris, but the ball bounced out of the rim and out of bounds to secure the Seawolves’ win.
Stephenson-Moore got the lucky bounce he needed on his game-winner, but he was ready for the putback in case he needed to do so.
“I was just trying to be aggressive,” Stephenson-Moore said in a postgame press conference. “I thought it was going to come off on the left, so I was already starting to crash to see if I could tip it in from the side. Then I just got the friendly roll.”
Though Stephenson-Moore may have doubted the shot going in, Policelli had confidence in his co-captain.
“I knew it was in, just because I’ve seen him work on that,” Policelli said. “It was a good shot. He got his legs up under him and got a good lift on it, so I knew it was good.”
Stephenson-Moore finished with a game-high 21 points on 9-of-12 shooting from the field. He also contributed three rebounds, two assists and two steals in 38 minutes played. It was the 12th-straight game he has scored in double figures.
Though the game ended on his note, it was Stephenson-Moore’s night from the start. Just under five minutes into the game, the senior went on a 9-0 run by himself to give the Seawolves a 14-5 lead. Stony Brook remained in control for much of the half, gaining a 10-point lead after a monster dunk by Fitzmorris over Williams.
The Seawolves had all of the momentum, holding a 26-18 lead with 2:35 left before halftime. This came to a screeching halt when the Dragons went on an 8-0 run to close out the half and tie the game. Head coach Geno Ford cited the team’s eight first-half turnovers as a culprit in the run.
“It was a red-out, and we threw the ball to guys not wearing red,” Ford said, referencing the uniforms the Seawolves wore on Thursday. “It was turnovers. In games we have not turned it over, we have had a fair amount of success.”
Drexel controlled for the early stages of the second half, going up by nine points with 9:42 remaining. Just when it looked like the Dragons were en route to a victory, the Seawolves showed life. They went on a 7-0 run in less than two minutes to cut their deficit to just two points.
After Drexel guard Justin Moore split a pair at the free-throw line, forward Kenan Sarvan drilled a deep three-pointer to tie the game at 51 with less than seven minutes remaining. One minute later, Sarvan stepped into the lane and drew a charge on defense to keep the score even with 5:51 left.
Just 16 seconds later, Stephenson-Moore found guard Kaine Roberts on a backdoor cut to take their first lead of the second half. The lead was erased quickly when Washington connected on a jump shot to tie the game at 53 with 5:22 remaining.
Both teams battled to retain the lead for the next few minutes. Policelli knocked down a pair of mid-range jump shots, but both were answered by the Dragons.
With just over two minutes remaining, guard Tanahj Pettway scored on a layup to regain the lead. However, Williams gave Drexel the lead back by throwing down a dunk through three defenders. He drew a foul and knocked down the and-one, putting Drexel up 63-61 with 1:55 left.
On the next possession, Pettway created space through contact and drilled a tough fadeaway jumper to tie the game at 63.
The Dragons answered with a free throw from Williams, but a miss on the second attempt wound up being the difference in the game. In the final minute, Stephenson-Moore and Drexel guard Jamie Bergens both traded buckets to swap one-point leads, setting the table for the dramatic finish.
According to Stony Brook Athletics, 2,840 fans were in attendance. The Seawolves’ faithful made their voices heard, to which Ford was very appreciative of.
“It was a really good atmosphere, and it was a big factor in the game,” Ford said. “When you win by one, the crowd makes a difference.”
Ford raised a valuable point, as Drexel shot only 6-for-14 (42.9%) from the free-throw line. Those misses played a monumental role in Stony Brook’s comeback. On the flip side, the Seawolves were nearly perfect from the line, shooting 92.3% and only missing one attempt.
Policelli scored 16 points, 14 of which came in the second half. He shot 5-for-8 from the field and 2-for-4 from deep, and connected on all four of his free throw attempts. He also pulled down 14 total rebounds, the 12th time this year that he has led the team in rebounds.
Stony Brook held up against the 15th best scoring defense in the nation, anchored by the reigning Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) Defensive Player of the Year in Williams. The junior recorded 14 points on 6-of-8 shooting and hauled in six rebounds. Ford made it clear that the team had a game plan for the All-Conference player.
“We tried to invert our offense and bring our bigs away because we did not want him standing in the lane,” Ford said. “I think by shooting, we got him away from the basket. He’s a handful, Williams. He’s terrific.”
Stony Brook will look to carry the momentum into its matchup against the North Carolina A&T Aggies in Greensboro, N.C. on Saturday. Opening tipoff is scheduled for 2 p.m. The Aggies are 7-11 on the season and 2-3 in conference play. They are coming off an 80-71 win over Elon on Wednesday.