Self-inflicted wounds put an end to a late-game surge by the Stony Brook men’s basketball team, as it fell short against the last-place team in the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA).
The Seawolves (8-17, 4-8 CAA) returned to Island Federal Arena to host the Monmouth Hawks on Wednesday. Despite the impressive return of guard Tyler Stephenson-Moore, a costly foul in the closing minute was the deciding factor in Stony Brook’s 61-54 defeat.
Stephenson-Moore made his return on Wednesday after going down with an injury against William & Mary. The senior scored 17 points off the bench, looking healthy in his 34 minutes of play. Unfortunately, his play was not enough to push the team over the hump.
With 32 seconds remaining, Stony Brook had possession of the ball with a chance to tie the game. Forward Frankie Policelli had the ball stripped from his hands by Monmouth guard Myles Ruth, who then attempted to push the tempo.
Before he could pass half court, Ruth was flagrantly fouled by forward Leon Nahar. Ruth knocked down both free throws to extend the Hawk’s lead to 58-53, ending the Seawolves’ momentum.
Stony Brook had to hope for a miracle to close the gap, which unfortunately never came. Missed free throws by guard Kaine Roberts and forward Kenan Sarvan sank the Seawolves’ chances of a comeback, sealing the team’s fate for good.
Nahar’s flagrant foul was the second that Stony Brook committed on the night, with the first coming from guard Toby Onyekonwu in the opening half. Head coach Geno Ford was taken aback by his team’s uncharacteristic behavior.
“We committed two flagrant fouls in transition,” Ford said in a postgame press conference. “In 30 years of college basketball, I don’t ever remember seeing that. We have to be able to think better when we’re struggling.”
Both teams struggled from the start, with offense stagnating on both ends of the floor. The Seawolves only had three points in the first seven minutes of play, shooting 1-for-10 from the field in that stretch.
Monmouth forward Myles Foster racked up nine points on 4-of-5 shooting in the opening minutes. He finished a three-point play at the 11:49 mark, extending the Hawks’ lead to 13-4. Nahar fueled a 12-1 run in the ensuing two minutes and 35 seconds, scoring six points and nabbing a steal to help take a 16-14 lead with nine minutes left.
Stephenson-Moore struggled in the first few possessions of the game, but with five minutes remaining in the first half, he got his feet under him after sinking a step-back three-pointer.
Both teams went back and forth towards the end of the half, and Monmouth was able to bring a 27-26 lead into the break.
Stony Brook’s foul trouble bled into the second half as Monmouth netted three-point plays at will. Stony Brook continued to cough the ball up, allowing the Hawks to jump out to a 45-34 lead with 10:31 left.
To stop the bleeding, Stony Brook’s two captains took charge. Pollicelli and Stephenson-Moore both sank crucial threes to pull the Seawolves back into the game, cutting their deficit to just five points. Unfortunately, costly turnovers by Onyekonwu and center Keenan Fitzmorris assisted in Monmouth extending its lead to nine points with 6:30 remaining.
Stony Brook yet again chipped into the Hawks’ lead, as Stephenson-Moore and Policelli powered a quick 7-0 run that brought the deficit down to two points. Trailing 49-47 with less than four minutes remaining, the Seawolves had an opportunity to put themselves back in the win column.
Guard Kaine Roberts knocked down a three-pointer to bring Stony Brook within one point just outside of the three-minute mark. Monmouth guard Tahron Allen continued to give the Seawolves problems by hitting a mid-range jump shot to put Monmouth up 55-50. Roberts had another answer for the Hawks, putting in a shot from behind the arc to keep the game within arm’s reach.
Ford was displeased with the team’s ability to move and hold onto the ball.
“Give Monmouth a lot of credit, they really bothered us with their trapping and running around and disrupting our offensive rhythm and flow,” Ford said. “Quite frankly, it’s one of the poorest pass, dribble, catch games I’ve ever seen in my life. We haven’t had issues like that coming into today… We struggled, we really struggled – I think that was obvious.”
Stephenson-Moore was the team’s leading scorer and shot 6-for-14. Pollicelli was the only other Seawolf to crack double digits with 11 points on 4-for-11 shooting. Stony Brook simply could not shoot against Monmouth’s stingy defense, knocking down just 30.9% of its shots as a team.
Allen led the way for the Hawk’s offense, leading all scorers with 22 points on 9-for-18 shooting. He also collected six steals. Monmouth’s defense was overwhelming, racking up several splash plays throughout the night with seven blocks and 12 steals.
The Seawolves will have a chance to return to winning ways on Saturday at home against the North Carolina A&T Aggies. The Aggies are 12-14 on the season and 7-6 in conference play. Opening tip-off is scheduled for 2 p.m.