After a pair of second-half meltdowns this week, the Stony Brook men’s basketball team now finds itself under .500 in conference play.
Following a demoralizing loss last Saturday, the Seawolves (7-13, 3-4 CAA) had two opportunities to bounce back in front of their home crowd. However, they squandered both of them, losing 79-66 to Northeastern on Thursday and 62-51 to UNC Wilmington on Saturday. Stony Brook allowed a 56.5% field goal percentage in the second half between the two games.
The Seawolves kicked off the week with their second meeting of the season against Northeastern. In the first half, Stony Brook allowed a 47.8% field goal percentage and a 55.6% three-point percentage. However, the Seawolves were still able to take the lead going into halftime thanks to a last-ditch effort by forward Frankie Policelli and guard Toby Onyekonwu. After Policelli scored 11 straight points to flip the momentum, Onyekonwu pulled off a three-point play with 43 seconds left to take the lead back. Stony Brook led 32-31 at intermission.
The poor shot defense in the first half was a sign of things to come in the second. The Huskies came out of the locker rooms on fire, knocking down six of their first 12 shots, putting Stony Brook behind 47-42. After Northeastern guard Masai Troutman missed a three-pointer with 11:26 left, Stony Brook did not force another miss for the rest of the game. Northeastern knocked down its final nine shots, connecting on all five of its three-pointers during the stretch.
Northeastern’s run included four straight three-pointers within a two-minute span to extend its lead to 15 points.
“We went zone and they banged three [three-pointers] in a row,” head coach Geno Ford said in a postgame press conference. “The reason we went zone is because we could not guard them in man. That was the game. Once [the deficit] gets to 15, you are really throwing Hail Marys at that point.”
Though the game ended on a sour note for the Seawolves, they still had some positives. In the first half alone, Policelli scored 15 points on 6-of-9 shooting. He led the team in scoring, totaling 22 points on 9-of-12 shooting for the game. He also led the team with five rebounds and tallied one block and one steal.
“I was just in my spots,” Policelli said. “I kind of had the hot hand, so we did a good job of getting me in my spots. Sometimes you just get in a zone and you just keep on hooping until they prove they can stop it.”
Stony Brook also got solid performances from two freshmen on Thursday. Onyekonwu scored a career-high 14 points on 4-of-7 shooting. He also knocked down all five of his free throw attempts. Despite his highest scoring performance this season, he felt that he could have contributed more as a facilitator.
“I feel like I could have played better,” Onyekonwu said. “I could have gotten my teammates the ball a little better.”
Forward Leon Nahar made the most of his nine minutes, scoring the first seven points of his NCAA career on 2-for-2 shooting. He also dished out three assists and knocked down his first-career three pointer.
Unfortunately for the Seawolves, the freshmen duo was not enough to bring them all the way back. They had no answer for the Huskies, who shot 72.7% from three-point territory in the second half and posted a .591/.650/.933 triple slash for the game.
Northeastern’s Jahmyl Telfort and Troutman both scored 20 points in the matchup. Telfort shot 6-of-12 from the field and 2-for-3 from deep. The Colonial Athletic Association’s (CAA) fourth-leading scorer tacked on three rebounds, three assists and a steal. Troutman shot 6-of-9 from the field and 4-of-6 from deep, marking a new career high in points.
Northeastern guard Joe Pridgen spotted his team another 15 points on 6-for-8 shooting and 3-of-4 three-point shooting. Pridgen and guard Glen McClintock co-led the team with five assists each, helping the Huskies reach a season-high 19 assists as a team.
In game two, things were ugly from the get-go. Both Stony Brook and UNC Wilmington played a sloppy, back-and-forth first half full of turnovers and poor shot selection. The Seawolves shot only 32% as a team and 21.4% from deep, while the Seahawks shot just 37.0% and hit just one three-pointer. The two teams combined to turn the ball over 11 times, including six turnovers from Stony Brook.
Despite the ugliness, the first half was also very competitive. The lead changed eight times between the two teams, with Stony Brook owning the lead for most of the first half. However, a three-pointer by UNCW guard Maleeck Harden-Hayes gave the Seahawks a 22-21 lead with 2:54 remaining. UNCW took that lead into halftime after Stony Brook missed three straight three-point attempts.
After Policelli sunk a mid-range jumper on Stony Brook’s opening shot of the second half to take the lead back, things took a turn for the worse. Harden-Hayes hit four consecutive three-pointers in as many possessions and scoring 12 unanswered points for the Seahawks.
Following a timeout, the Seawolves responded with a 13-2 run of their own, capped off by threes from forward Kenan Sarvan and Onyekonwu to even things up at 36 apiece.
After its best run of the day, Stony Brook allowed a 6-0 run to UNCW with less than 12 minutes remaining, giving the Seahawks a lead they did not relinquish. A pair of free throws by Policelli cut UNCW’s lead to four points with 9:14 remaining, but that was the closest Stony Brook came for the rest of the afternoon.
UNCW took all of the momentum away around the nine-minute mark when it pulled down three consecutive offensive rebounds. The crazy sequence concluded with a three-point play by Harden-Hayes. Stony Brook’s inability to box out plagued it in the second half, as the Seahawks grabbed six offensive rebounds and scored seven second-chance points.
The Seawolves continued to fight back but could not get over the hump over the final eight minutes. The final nail in the coffin came when Stephenson-Moore fouled out with 1:36 remaining, allowing UNCW to put things out of reach with several last-minute free throws.
The potent Seahawk defense that ranks second in the CAA smothered the Seawolves all day, taking away the paint and forcing Stony Brook to turn to jump shooting. They were unable to make the adjustment, shooting just 5-of-22 from deep.
UNCW’s defensive game plan attacked a major weakness of Stony Brook’s offense that has plagued the team all season long. The Seahawks’ ability to hinder the Seawolves’ connection on entry passes prevented them from getting set and running plays, forcing the offense to settle for shots they were uncomfortable with.
“We couldn’t make an entry pass to the wing,” Ford said. “They’re excellent at it. That’s our biggest weakness offensively is being able to get organized and make entry passes and get offense going.”
There were not many positives to go around for the Seawolves, as much of the lineup struggled. Onyekonwu led Stony Brook with five assists and 11 points on 4-of-9 shooting.
The Seawolves had no answer for Harden-Hayes, who scored 31 points on 8-of-11 shooting. He knocked down all 10 of his free throw attempts and shot 5-of-7 from deep. He scored 25 points in the second half.
Stony Brook will look to snap out of its funk on Thursday down in Virginia against the William & Mary Tribe. The Tribe are 8-13 on the season and have lost three in a row. They lost their last game 90-86 to North Carolina A&T on Saturday. Opening tip off is scheduled for 7 p.m.