The Stony Brook men’s basketball team’s season came to a close in the nation’s capital after being eliminated from the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) postseason tournament.
After picking up their first-ever CAA postseason victory on Saturday, the 10th-seeded Seawolves (11-22, 6-12 CAA) went on to face the second-seeded Charleston Cougars at Entertainment & Sports Arena on Sunday. In the teams’ second matchup in eight days, Stony Brook was handled by Charleston in a 74-52 defeat.
The Cougars asserted their dominance early, jumping out to a quick 11-0 lead in the first three minutes. Guard Tanahj Pettway ended the dry spell with a jumper, but Charleston answered with another 11-0 run to take a 22-2 lead.
The Seawolves outscored Charleston 24-20 over the remaining 13 minutes of the half. Center Keenan Fitzmorris led the way, scoring 11 points during the stretch. Despite the competitive play, Stony Brook still trailed substantially after its horrendous start. The team shot just 39.3% from the field and 18.2% from deep in the first half, trailing 42-26 going into halftime.
Head coach Geno Ford attributed Stony Brook’s struggles to Charleston’s pace and tight defense.
“They have such great pace and speed,” Ford said in a postgame press conference. “I think the speed that they played with got us on our heels, and we did a terrible job taking care of the ball. We had seven turnovers in the first eight minutes, and then we had five in the last 32.”
Things only got worse for the Seawolves in the second half. They managed to cut the deficit to 55-42 with 10:56 remaining, but Charleston quickly extinguished the flames by going on a 12-3 run.
Despite respectable shot defense, Stony Brook continued to struggle on offense. The Seawolves had identical shooting numbers in both halves, scoring 26 points on 11-of-28 shooting. What sank Stony Brook was its numbers from three-point territory, shooting just 14.3% as a team.
Charleston was actually less-than-dominant in the second half, scoring 32 points on 41.9% shooting. However, the Cougars had an answer for each of the Seawolves’ scores, allowing them to pull off a comfortable win.
The Cougars shared a balanced workload in the matchup, as four players reached double-digit scoring totals. Charleston forward Ante Brzovic led the way with 15 points on 6-of-14 shooting and added seven rebounds, two assists, a steal and a block. Guard Dalton Bolon was not far behind, logging 12 points, eight rebounds, three assists and a steal.
Guards Ryan Larson and Reyne Smith contributed 11 and 10 points, respectively. Larson led Charleston with five assists.
Stony Brook actually shot the ball better from the field (39.3%) than Charleston (38.2%), but the Cougar’s 10 three-pointers outmatched the Seawolves’ two.
Charleston dominated on the glass, winning the rebounding battle 47-32. The Cougars also pulled down 15 offensive rebounds, allowing them to score 19 second-chance points. This significantly overmatched Stony Brook’s effort in that department, as it grabbed only three offensive rebounds and scored four second-chance points.
Charleston also had the advantage in depth, as its 24 bench points overpowered Stony Brook’s 10. The Cougars had 12 players score in the matchup, which was twice as many as the Seawolves.
Ford acknowledged that playing back-to-back days was not favorable to Stony Brook’s seven-man rotation.
“It’s an issue for us. We have a very short rotation,” Ford said. “We were 1-9 coming into today on one-day rest, so I didn’t think zero-day rest would be better than one-day rest. Listen, that’s not why we lost … [Charleston] is just really, really good.”
Fitzmorris was one of the few bright spots for Stony Brook, scoring a game-high 18 points on 8-of-17 shooting. He also tallied three rebounds, three assists and a steal. Fitzmorris cited confidence as the driving factor behind his performance, and gave a glimpse into what is to come in the future.
“Every night I go out there, I try to be aggressive,” Fitzmorris said. “My coaches and my teammates have confidence in me. I just try to be confident every night. I think there’s going to be a lot of work this offseason to be ready for next year and have a different result.”
After having a historic game against North Carolina A&T in the second round, forward Frankie Policelli came back down to Earth on Sunday. He contributed in other ways for Stony Brook, recording eight rebounds, an assist, a block and a steal, but scored only five points.
Charleston’s defense was also rough on guard Tyler Stephenson-Moore, who was held to nine points on 4-of-11 shooting.
Guards Toby Onyekonwu and Pettway both turned in solid performances. Onyekonwu recorded 10 points, seven rebounds and four assists. Pettway tallied eight points on 4-of-5 shooting and added three rebounds and a steal.
Charleston will move on to face Towson in the semifinals on Monday. Ford demonstrated his utmost respect for the Cougars.
“They absolutely should be in the NCAA Tournament,” Ford said. “Regardless of what they do tomorrow … if the committee is paying attention and watching games, they know that is an NCAA [Tournament] team. I hope they get in, because they could do some damage.”