Career nights from guard Tanahj Pettway and center Keenan Fitzmorris were not enough for the Stony Brook men’s basketball team to mount a late comeback in Delaware.
The Seawolves (9-18, 5-9 CAA) fell short of notching a vital second-straight victory on Monday night at the Delaware Blue Hens. Stony Brook trailed by as many as 20 points in the second half and could not pull off a rally, leading to a 71-60 loss.
The Seawolves were bombarded from deep early in the first half. Just five minutes into the game, Delaware guard Jameer Nelson Jr. nailed a three-pointer that sparked a 19-2 run, giving his team a 29-10 lead. The Blue Hens made five three-pointers during that stretch, three of which came from Nelson Jr. He had the hot hand for the Blue Hens during that scoring streak, knocking down four three-pointers by the 8:02 mark in the first half.
Pettway snapped Delaware’s run by making back-to-back three-point attempts. He continued to carry the offense with a layup set up by a smooth euro step with just under four minutes remaining in the half. He came out blazing in the first half, leading Stony Brook with 14 points on 5-of-6 shooting from the field. He also went 4-for-4 from deep.
Pettway’s scoring did not inspire the defense, as Stony Brook allowed too many open looks. Despite scoring more than half of the team’s points in the opening frame, the Seawolves trailed by 14 going into halftime. Delaware knocked down half of its three-pointers in the first half, going 8-for-16.
Coming out of the locker room, the Seawolves still could not stop Delaware’s onslaught. Between the 16:04 and the 12:36 marks of the second half, the Blue Hens went on a 10-0 run that put Stony Brook in a 20-point hole. Fitzmorris snapped their run with a three-point play and was followed by a Pettway layup. The tough buckets in the paint inspired a late comeback attempt by the Seawolves.
Fitzmorris’ and-one put a 20-6 run by Stony Brook into motion. A couple of baskets by Fitzmorris and free throws by guard Tyler Stephenson-Moore cut the Seawolves’ deficit down to 10 points with 7:23 remaining.
A mid-range jumper by Delaware center Jyare Davis extended the Blue Hens’ lead back to 12 points, but Stony Brook continued to fight. Coming off an inbound pass, Stephenson-Moore flipped it to forward Frankie Policelli, who promptly knocked down a three-pointer from the corner.
On the next possession, Stephenson-Moore collected his fifth steal of the night and set up a fast break opportunity. Guard Kaine Roberts then dumped the ball off to Policelli in transition, who hit his second-straight three-pointer to cut Delaware’s lead down to six points with 5:26 left.
Stony Brook continued to chip away at Delaware’s lead. A pair of free throws by Policelli with 1:17 remaining shortened the Blue Hens’ lead to just five points. However, Stony Brook did not score another point after that. The offense missed its final four field goals, and Delaware put the game away with garbage-time free throws.
Head coach Geno Ford was proud of how his team fought, but believes that the poor start was too much to overcome.
“We got off to a poor start with six turnovers in our first 12 possessions which caused separation,” Ford said in an interview with Stony Brook Athletics. “We competed our tails off and had the game within five, but couldn’t get over the hump.”
Pettway and Fitzmorris both had career scoring nights. Pettway led the team with 20 points on 8-of-14 shooting and also pulled down seven rebounds. Fitzmorris scored 17 points on 6-of-9 shooting while shooting 5-for-6 from the free-throw line. He also added a career-best five assists.
“Tanahj had a good ballgame and Fitz was terrific for us,” Ford said.
Despite not scoring a point in the second half, Policelli finished the game with 12 points on 4-for-10 shooting. As for his co-captain, Stephenson-Moore had a rough night shooting. The Seawolves’ leading-scorer this season shot 0-for-10 from the floor and 0-for-4 from deep, scoring all six of his points from the charity stripe. However, he did make an impact in other areas, collecting five rebounds and a career-high five steals.
Stephenson-Moore’s night shooting the ball weighed heavily on the offense as a whole. Stony Brook only shot 36.4% from the field and 30.4% from deep. Defensively, the Seawolves allowed Delaware to shoot 47.1% overall and 40.7% from three-point range. The Blue Hens’ 11 makes from three was a season-high.
Four Delaware shooters cracked double-digit scoring figures. Nelson Jr. led the way with 23 points on 7-for-14 shooting. Guard Christian Ray added another 13 points on 4-of-5 shooting. Guard Ebby Asamoah and Davis each contributed 12 points as well.
The Seawolves will look to get back on track when they return to Island Federal Arena on Thursday against the Willam & Mary Tribe. The Tribe are 10-17 and 5-9 in conference play this season. They are coming off a 68-66 victory over Towson on Monday.