SBU Sports: Men’s hoops rebounds vs. NJIT, splits weekend series

SBU Sports: Men’s hoops rebounds vs. NJIT, splits weekend series

Jaden Sayles cruises in for a layup last Sunday in Newark.

NEWARK, N.J. — A day after coach Geno Ford lamented the Stony Brook men’s basketball team’s defensive execution, the Seawolves clamped down on Jan. 24.

Stony Brook rebounded from a defeat the previous day to beat host NJIT, 56-44.

The Seawolves held the Highlanders to 13 first-half points. It was the fewest points scored by a Seawolves opponent in a half since UMBC mustered only 10 in the second half of an 83-39 loss to Stony Brook on Feb. 19, 2013.

Juan Felix Rodriguez (16 points) and Frankie Policelli (11) each scored in double-figures in Sunday’s victory, while Mouhamadou Gueye contributed a career-high 14 of the Seawolves’ eyepopping 55 rebounds.

Stony Brook trailed 36-35 after a three-pointer from NJIT’s Miles Coleman with 10:58 remaining in the game. The Seawolves then answered with a 10-0 run that included three field goals from Rodriguez.

The Seawolves (7-7, 5-3) maintained the lead the rest of the way despite shooting 1-for-19 from three-point range for the game.

Stony Brook snapped a three-game conference losing streak to stay in the upper echelon of the conference.

“It was a grind,” Rodriguez said. “Coming from the two losses from the last weekend and the loss yesterday, we needed this win. We came in with the mentality to get that W.”

Said Ford: “As a staff I felt like we were playing for our lives today. Losing stinks.”

Stony Brook held NJIT leading scorer Zach Cooks to four points on 1-for-13 shooting from the field. The 55 rebounds marked the most since producing that same number against Farmingdale State on Nov. 11, 2019.

“I was super-pleased with our defensive effort, obviously, today,” Ford said. “I know they missed some shots. But clearly we did, too. We missed almost all of them.

“It’s the first game since we’ve returned (from a two-week COVID pause) that we mentally and physically competed at a high level. That looked like our team from four weeks ago. And not because we won. We could have lost, and I would have just said, ‘Well, we didn’t shoot it good.’ But, man, we did a look of good things. Anytime you out-rebound people like we did, you know guys are playing super hard.”

With America East shuffling schedules due to COVID-related pauses, Stony Brook now will host Hartford Jan. 30 and 31 at Island Federal Arena. Start time for both games is 2 p.m.