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men’s basketball

Mouhamadou Gueye (#2) produced a career-high scoring output last Sunday against UMBC.

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

Tyler Stephenson-Moore sends through a dunk the first half of Sunday’s win against Hartford.

Frankie Policelli and the Stony Brook men’s basketball team awakened from a shooting funk at an opportune time.

Policelli drained a pair of three-pointers less than two minutes apart early in the second half to open a double-digit advantage and the Seawolves went on to a 63-49 win against Hartford on Jan. 31 at Island Federal Arena.

The teams split the weekend series.

Stony Brook (8-8, 6-4 AE) overcame early shooting woes and foul issues to take a four-point halftime lead. And when Policelli drained a three-pointer with 15:24 remaining in the second half, the Seawolves opened a 41-29 advantage. 

Another three-pointer from Policelli two minutes later upped the Seawolves’ lead to 14 points.

After Hartford clawed within 46-40 midway through the second half, Juan Felix Rodriguez answered with a three-pointer and Omar Habwe converted a jumper to reopen a double-digit advantage.

“I thought we defended at a high level, and we got separation in the second half because we made threes,” coach Geno Ford said. “We finally made some shots. It makes the offense look a whole lot better.”

The Seawolves had shot 17.1 percent (12-for-70) from three-point range over their previous three games, including 8-for-31 in a 59-57 loss to Hartford on Jan. 30.

Policelli, who reaggravated a recurring hip issue during the second half, finished with a team-high 16 points. He shot 4-for-5 from behind the arc on Sunday.

Leighton Elliott-Sewell added a career-high 13 points. He had accounted for only four points in Stony Brook’s six games since Dec. 28 entering Sunday.

“I was just getting the ball in spots where I could score,” Elliott-Sewell said.

Tavin Pierre Philippe logged a season-high 20 minutes.

“I thought our bench was great in the first half when we needed it,” Ford said. “I thought our starters looked a little lethargic. We were able to get some real lift off that bench.”

The Seawolves had dropped four straight meetings with Hartford, including last year’s America East semifinal.

“It really was a big motivation for the team,” said Mouhamadou Gueye, who finished with nine points and five rebounds. Stony Brook hosts UMBC for a pair of games next weekend.

“Here comes the best team in the league in my opinion,” Ford said, citing UMBC’s speed, athleticism and size.

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.

Ethan Agro has always been able to turn tears of sorrow into tears of joy.

Even though he was born with a congenital heart defect, the 12-year-old was always a trooper, and especially so when he needed to lay on an operating table last year and undergo eight hours of open heart surgery to repair his aortic valve.

12-year-old Ethan Agro celebrates after making the Gold Coast Bank three-point shot during halftime of the Stony Brook University men's basketball game on Jan. 9. Photo from SBU
12-year-old Ethan Agro celebrates after making the Gold Coast Bank three-point shot during halftime of the Stony Brook University men’s basketball game on Jan. 9. Photo from SBU

“My husband and I and my family were crying tears of joy,” Ethan’s mother Susan Agro said after the operation went smoothly. “Words cannot describe what a difficult time last year was. It was a really, really hard decision to make and we were really surprised. It was a rough recovery for the first few weeks, but Ethan did great, he had an amazing recovery and we are so grateful.”

Again, on Saturday evening at the men’s home basketball game, Ethan turned the triumph of a successful surgery and recovery into happy tears as he won $500 by banking the Gold Coast Bank three-point halftime shot.

“I was just so grateful that he was able to stand out in front of that crowd and make that shot,” she said. “I was crying tears of joy.”

His mother went to the refreshment stand and while away, a student intern group randomly picked Ethan to attempt the shot. He asked his mother for permission and she said yes without hesitation, although warning her son that no one had made the basket yet this season.

But he did.

Ethan Agro lines up to take his three-point shot during halftime of the Stony Brook University men's basketball game on Jan. 9. Photo from SBU
Ethan Agro lines up to take his three-point shot during halftime of the Stony Brook University men’s basketball game on Jan. 9. Photo from SBU

“I was surprised to see it go in,” Ethan said. “When I was taking the shot I wasn’t focusing on what the crowd was thinking. I was focusing on making the shot. I was so excited, and shooting in front of the crowd was an honor. I always admired those people — wanting to get picked.”

Stony Brook Assistant Athletic Director of Marketing Chris Murray said Ethan was randomly picked, not knowing that the family, which has lived in Mount Sinai for the last 16 years, had been to all of Stony Brook University’s men’s home games for the last five years. The Agros are season ticket holders and especially enjoyed using the games as an escape while Ethan waited six weeks after scheduling his surgery.

“I myself was on the court with Ethan when he hit the shot and his eyes lit up and he began to run in circles, unsure how to contain his excitement,” Murray said. “I couldn’t have been more happy for him, giving him a big hug as soon as we got off the court. Ethan is the most humble and appreciative middle-schooler I have ever met.”

Ethan has been on the court before, taking part in summer camps at the school but said being on the court at that moment was extra special.

Susan Agro said the whole moment was exciting as the boy was cleared to return to all normal activity just three months ago, and being that they are such big fans of the team.

Ethan Agro poses for a photo with Wolfie after banking his three-point shot during the Stony Brook University men's basketball game, winning $500 from Gold Coast Bank. Photo from SBU
Ethan Agro poses for a photo with Wolfie after banking his three-point shot during the Stony Brook University men’s basketball game, winning $500 from Gold Coast Bank. Photo from SBU

“I told Ethan he could’ve danced a little bit with Wolfie,” his mother said, laughing. “But I was completely shocked for the rest of the day. Everyone was high-fiving Ethan after the game and telling him it was a good shot and what a great story, they were all really excited for Ethan. It was an awesome experience.”

Ethan’s father Nick Agro said he was more excited to see his son be able to go back to playing basketball, as the boy competes in an intermural league.

“This was just a sort of culminating moment — to see him stand up there and make that shot was awesome,” he said. “It just solidified that he’s doing so well.”