Guard Toby Onyekonwu setting up a screen from center Keenan Fitzmorris against Towson on Saturday, Jan. 7. The Stony Brook men’s basketball team suffered a tough loss on Saturday despite outplaying North Carolina A&T for most of the game. BRITTNEY DIETZ/THE STATESMAN

The Stony Brook men’s basketball team nearly pulled off a second-straight win on Saturday, but a potentially game-tying layup rolled off the rim as time expired.

Looking to recreate Thursday night’s crunch-time magic, the Stony Brook men’s basketball team had no gas left in the tank to eke out a win against the North Carolina A&T Aggies. They held the momentum for much of the first half but ended up losing 61-59 at the Corbett Sports Center.

The Seawolves (7-11, 3-2 CAA) took an early 20-13 lead when all of five of their starters scored within the opening minutes. Stony Brook gained a huge swing of momentum after guard Toby Onyekonwu threaded the needle to forward Kenan Sarvan for a layup. Onyekonwu’s dime helped give Stony Brook a 10-point lead with 3:33 remaining in the first half. 

Just 47 seconds later, guard Tyler Stephenson-Moore went down with an injury. The Aggies took this opportunity to go on a 6-0 run and cut Stony Brook’s lead down to four points by halftime.

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North Carolina A&T’s newfound offensive energy did not relent after halftime, and the team tied the game just 51 seconds into the second half with a three-pointer from guard Kam Woods. The two teams went blow-for-blow over the final 19 minutes, but the Seawolves’ effort on the glass kept them ahead for much of the rest of the game. 

Stephenson-Moore returned to the game in the second half and scored nine points to help Stony Brook maintain its lead. However, the Seawolves’ lead never grew larger than five points over the ensuing 15 minutes of play.

With just 4:20 remaining in the second half, forward Frankie Policelli finished a tough three-point play through contact, giving Stony Brook a four-point lead. But after forcing back-to-back misses from three-point territory on defense, the Seawolves came up empty-handed on the offensive end. This allowed North Carolina A&T forward Marcus Watson to cut his team’s deficit to just one point with a three-pointer at the 3:23 mark. 

After two more misses from Policelli, the Aggies fed the ball to center Austin Johnson in the low post. Johnson finished a tough layup through contact from Policelli and drew a foul to give North Carolina A&T the lead. He converted the and-one to make it 59-57 with 1:49 remaining in the game.

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On the next possession, Stephenson-Moore missed a contested three-pointer with just 1:13 remaining. The Aggies chewed the next 27 seconds off the clock but could not score to put the game away. Policelli attempted to tie the game with a fadeaway jumper, but good defense from Watson forced an airball. After corralling the defensive rebound, Woods drew a foul and doubled the Aggies’ lead by knocking down both free throws.

Despite Stony Brooks’ untimely scoring drought, it still had numerous opportunities to reclaim the game. After a pair of free throws by Stephenson-Moore cut the team’s deficit to just two points, North Carolina A&T forward Duncan Powell opened the door for a miracle comeback by missing his own free throw. 

With just six seconds left, guard Tanahj Pettway drew a shooting foul but missed the first free throw. With no other option, he purposely missed the second free throw, and Policelli grabbed the rebound. However, his second-chance layup rolled off the rim and the Seawolves ran out of time.

“Tough one because we led for over 30 minutes,” head coach Geno Ford said in a postgame interview with Stony Brook Athletics. “We couldn’t make any big offensive plays down the stretch. We had wide-open threes, some post-isolations and free throws that we couldn’t convert.” 

Stony Brook squandered several opportunities to take over the game. The team missed several second-chance scoring opportunities and did not shoot well with separation in big moments. 

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Even though Stony Brook outrebounded North Carolina A&T, its minus-six turnover differential proved costly to the team. Both sides shot below 40% overall and 30% from deep. As a team, the Seawolves only shot 36.2% overall and 26.5% from deep. Stony Brook only missed two free throws on the night, but the first miss was the most came at the most inopportune time.

Stephenson-Moore led Stony Brook with 18 points on 5-of-14 shooting and added four assists. Sarvan and Policelli both logged double-digit rebound totals with 13 and 14 respectively. Sarvan’s 13 rebounds marked a new NCAA career-high. His previous career-best was nine, which came in a game with Coppin State two years ago. 

Woods led North Carolina A&T with 19 points on 7-of-15 shooting, while Watson added another 18 points on 8-of-18 shooting.

Stony Brook will return home to host Northeastern on Thursday. The Huskies are 7-10 on the season and 3-3 in conference play. This will be the two teams’ second meeting of the season. Stony Brook beat Northeastern 65-61 on Dec. 31 to open the conference season. The game will tip off at 7 p.m.

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