The Stony Brook men’s basketball team had a wild ride down in Virginia, but the rest of its season is now in jeopardy.
During their weekend stay in Virginia, the Seawolves (8-14, 4-5 CAA) split a pair of games: one against the William & Mary Tribe and one against the Hampton Pirates.
After falling 77-74 on Thursday to William & Mary, they bounced back with a 71-66 victory at Hampton on Saturday. Though the win on Saturday snapped a four-game losing streak for Stony Brook, the loss on Thursday cost the team one of its best players in guard Tyler Stephenson-Moore.
Game one was a whirlwind. The contest appeared to be over after a three-pointer by William & Mary guard Jake Milkereit gave his team a 20-point lead with 4:15 remaining in the first half. However, the Seawolves had other plans.
Five minutes into the second half, a tight pass from guard Toby Onyekonwu freed center Rocco Muratori for a dunk, which helped turn the tide in favor of Stony Brook. Over the next two minutes and 15 seconds, the Seawolves knocked down three straight three-point attempts to cut their deficit down to just 12 points.
Led by forward Frankie Policelli, Stony Brook used the three-ball to get back into it. Policelli’s hot hand gave the Tribe fits, as he knocked down four three-pointers after halftime to close the gap. He scored 16 points in the second half, helping his team close the gap.
Policelli’s hot shooting opened the floor up for his teammates, as Onyekonwu and guard Tanahj Pettway combined to knock down five more three-pointers in the second half. An Onyekonwu three-pointer with 9:43 remaining cut Stony Brook’s deficit to 10. Almost two minutes later, a three from Policelli brought Stony Brook within eight points of William & Mary.
The Tribe continued to fend the Seawolves off, extending their lead back to 11 points with 6:18 left in the game. Stony Brook promptly responded with a 10-3 run, headlined by two more Policelli three-pointers. By the 3:30 mark, the Seawolves trailed by only four points.
Despite the momentum that Stony Brook had built, two key mid-range jumpers from William & Mary guard Anders Nelson kept the Tribe up by six points with less than one minute to go. However, the Seawolves continued to make it interesting. With only 36 seconds remaining, Onyekonwu pulled up and sank a three to cut the deficit down to just three points.
After a free throw by William & Mary guard Chris Mullins, Onyekonwu brought the ball down the court and found Pettway open in the corner for a catch-and-shoot three-pointer. Pettway drilled it, cutting the deficit to just one point with only 10 seconds remaining.
William & Mary extended its lead back to three points after Nelson knocked down a pair of free throws. Stony Brook had one last chance to tie the game, but a heavily-defended Pettway missed a three-pointer at the final buzzer.
Nelson had his way at all three levels with Stony Brook’s defense all night, as he scored from the paint, mid-range and beyond the arc. Nelson scored 27 points on 8-of-8 shooting, including 4-for-4 from deep. He only missed one free throw in eight attempts, and scored double digit points in both halves.
The Seawolves’ shot defense failed them once again, allowing the Tribe to shoot 13-for-16 from deep. The Tribe’s scorching hot first half wound up hurting Stony Brook in the end, as they shot 10-of-12 from three-point range in the first half alone.
While attempting a comeback, Stony Brook suffered a setback when Stephenson-Moore went down with an injury. Stephenson-Moore — the Seawolves’ leading scorer this season — landed hard on his backside with 6:50 left in the second half. He was loaded onto a stretcher and taken by an ambulance to a nearby hospital.
Already without guards Aaron Clarke, Dean Noll, Sabry Philip and Jared Frey, Stephenson-Moore’s absence will prove to be another hurdle for Stony Brook to overcome. Head coach Geno Ford spoke about the loss of Stephenson-Moore after the game.
“Disappointment of the game result is very secondary for our group,” Ford said in an interview with Stony Brook Athletics. “Tyler’s injury is our only concern tonight. He means a lot to our team and program statistically, but means much more in terms of leadership and character.”
Stony Brook had another second-half turnaround in game two. This time, the team successfully completed the comeback.
Stony Brook struggled early, falling behind Hampton by 10 points within the first four minutes. The Pirates continued their strong start, extending their lead to 14 points after a layup by forward Kyrese Mullen.
The Seawolves found their footing after center Keenan Fitzmorris hit a mid-range jumper with 7:22 remaining in the half. Starting with that shot, Stony Brook went on an 18-11 run to close the first half.
After going into halftime trailing by seven points, Policelli put the Seawolves on his back. Starting with a layup just two and a half minutes into the second half, Policelli went on an absurd scoring streak to carry Stony Brook to victory. Over the next nine minutes and 26 seconds, Policelli scored each of Stony Brook’s next 22 points, giving his team an eight-point lead with 8:03 remaining.
Forward Leon Nahar snapped Policelli’s scoring streak, knocking down a three-pointer with 7:33 left to give Stony Brook an 11-point lead. Policelli tacked on two more with a pair of free throws, giving the Seawolves their largest lead of the day with 6:55 remaining.
The Pirates did not go away easily, cutting their deficit down to just five points with 39 seconds remaining. However, Policelli and guard Kaine Roberts iced the game with free throws to secure the victory.
Stony Brook’s offense stepped up in the second half, shooting 55.6% overall after halftime. Without Stephenson-Moore to help balance the workload, Policelli had a career day. Policelli shattered his previous career high, scoring 34 points on 11-of-20 shooting. He scored 31 of his points in the second half. He did not make a three-point field goal throughout the contest, shooting 0-for-4 from deep. However, he did knock down 12 of his 14 free throw attempts. He also pulled down 12 rebounds.
“A lot of guys made huge plays and were factors in the game, but Frankie’s second half is the best 20 minutes of offensive basketball I’ve been a part of,” Ford said.
Between the two games, Policelli scored 59 points on 19-of-33 shooting. He shot 4-of-10 from deep and 17-for-19 from the free-throw line. On the glass, he tallied 17 rebounds between Thursday and Saturday. Onyekonwu had a good weekend too, scoring 23 points on a combined 8-for-18 shooting.
The Seawolves will return to the hardwood this Thursday when they host the Elon Phoenix at 7 p.m. The Phoenix are currently 3-19 on the season and 1-8 in conference play, good for second-worst in the Colonial Athletic Association. They are coming off a 72-58 upset win over Drexel and are currently 0-10 on the road.