The Stony Brook men’s basketball team is now in the midst of crunch time as it aims to maximize its seeding in the America East Tournament.
Unfortunately for the Seawolves, they dropped the first of four straight games against the conference’s top placeholders, falling to UMBC, 71-65, on Feb. 7 at Island Federal Arena.
Stony Brook (8-9, 6-5 AE) slipped two games in the loss column behind UMBC (12-4, 8-3) and Vermont (7-3, 7-3) for the conference’s leading positions. The top two finishers earn byes into the America East semifinals, while the third and fourth seeds will host opening-round pods in the 10-team tourney.
UMBC shot 46.7 percent from three-point range before intermission (7-for-15) and built a 16-point advantage early in the second half.
“I think the experience factor was enormous,” Stony Brook coach Geno Ford said. “They came out at the start of the game, understood the intensity level when you’re playing for first place, and we played like an inexperienced bunch of new guys, who would like to win, but aren’t necessarily playing hard enough early.”
Mouhamadou Gueye paced Stony Brook with 17 points and eight blocks — both career highs, and the latter figure one shy of matching Jameel Warney’s program record, set in 2015 against Princeton. The scoring total supplanted a 16-point performance against Binghamton on Jan. 22, 2020 for his career high. Gueye now has 120 career blocks, matching Greg Angrum (1980-84) for fifth on the program’s all-time list.
Juan Felix Rodriguez (17 points) and Tykei Greene (11) also scored in double-figures.
A pair of free throws from Gueye and a driving layup from Rodriguez pulled the Seawolves within 49-45 and prompted a timeout from UMBC with 12 minutes remaining in the game.
When play resumed, Jordan McKenzie produced a steal and Greene converted a driving layup at the other end to continue Stony Brook’s 16-2 run.
LJ Owens stopped UMBC’s hemorrhaging with a three-point play and the Retrievers managed to hold off Stony Brook the rest of the way.
“I’ll give our guys a lot of credit,” Ford said. “In the first half, I thought we played on our heels. And at halftime we really challenged them hard about their effort and energy level. And in the second half I thought we were fantastic. We played well enough to win for 20 minutes, but they played well enough to win for 40.”
The Seawolves played without leading perimeter threat Frankie Policelli.
Policelli, who is averaging 11.3 points per game and a team-leading .348 shooting percentage from three-point range, had aggravated a nagging hip issue late in in last Sunday’s 63-49 win against Hartford.
Still, Ford noted the Seawolves shot 13-for-34 inside the paint on Sunday.
“That is, to me, what sputtered the offense,” Ford said. “They pack the paint so hard that they force you to shoot threes. We have two or three guys out there that they’re just blatantly not guarding. They’re just standing in the lane, off of them.”
Stony Brook and UMBC met again on Feb. 8 but the Seawolves fell again 60-48. The team heads to Vermont next weekend for a critical two-game showdown against the second-place Catamounts.
Photo courtesy of Stony Brook Athletics