Four players reached double-digit scoring, the team shot 54.9 percent from the floor, and the Seawolves led wire to wire in a dominant 73-54 win over LIU-Brooklyn at Madison Square Garden. For Seawolves fans, there’s a lot to be thankful for so far this season.
In front of a small Thanksgiving Day crowd, junior Rayshaun McGrew recorded his first double-double of the season on 13 points and 11 boards. He was one of four Stony Brook starters to cross the double-digit threshold in the scoring column, with freshman Roland Nyama adding 16, Carson Puriefoy contributing 10 and Jameel Warney leading all scorers with 18.
Warney’s dunk in the second half gave the junior standout 1000 points for his career, reaching the milestone in just 74 games.
Even in defeat, Stony Brook’s game against Hofstra felt like a turning point in the early weeks of the season.
In an unfriendly arena against a very good team and in just their third game of the season, the young Seawolves didn’t flinch. Jameel Warney got the ball in the post with less than 10 seconds to play and put it in for a 65-64 lead. A defensive lapse allowed the Pride to escape with a 1-point win, but Stony Brook looked good all night long.
And so, after easily dispensing Division II US Merchant Marine Academy, the Seawolves had an opportunity to put it all together at home against one of the most storied programs in Division I.
Western Kentucky are owners of the eighth best winning percentage in Division I history, and even in rebuilding seasons opponents overlook the Hilltoppers at their own peril.
But if Stony Brook felt at all overmatched, they didn’t show it. Carson Puriefoy led all scorers with 21, Jameel Warney went for his 5th straight double-double, and a pair of freshmen turned in good performances to lift Stony Brook to a 71-61 win.
On defense, the Seawolves held WKU to just 38 percent shooting from the floor, and Stony Brook held the slight edge on the boards, out-rebounding the Toppers 40-37.
Tyrell Sturdivant, the freshman who has been quiet for the first few weeks of the season, provided a spark for the Seawolves. In 23 minutes off the bench, he contributed 10 points, 8 rebounds, 3 assists, a block and a steal, all without turning over the ball. If he continues to improve, he will be a huge weapon for Coach Pikiell in giving starters Rayshaun McGrew or Roland Nyama a break.
Speaking of Nyama, the redshirt freshman is looking more and more comfortable on the floor after struggling to find a rhythm in his first four games. He went 3 for 5 from the floor, including 2 of 3 from long distance and finished with 10 points. He did end up fouling out, but his performance was the best we’ve seen from him so far.
Still, the offense belonged to the usual suspects: Puriefoy’s 21 points comes a week after his 26 point effort against Georgia. Warney, meanwhile, turned in another Warneyesque performance with 17 points and 15 rebounds to increase his season averages.
His field goal percentage is still off the pace from a season ago, but Warney has improved game to game. He also had 4 blocks to lead all players.
The game was being billed — by us, at least — as the renewal of New York’s biggest college basketball rivalry. And 40 minutes of back-and-forth basketball made us look friggin prescient.
A Jameel Warney lay-in with less than 10 seconds to play gave Stony Brook a 65-64 lead, but the Seawolves defense couldn’t stop Dion Nesmith from racing down the court, pulling up, and drilling a jump shot with 2 seconds on the clock to seal the win for Hofstra.
It was a close game all night long, with neither team able to open up a double-digit lead. Warney paced the Seawolves all night, finally turning in the kind of performance that has made him the most dangerous player in the America East. He went 11 of 14 from the floor, good for a game-high 26 to go along with 14 boards. That’s his third double double of the season, one for each game Stony Brook has played.
After posting some pedestrian numbers in their season opener against Columbia last week, Stony Brook was hoping to flex a bit more offensive muscle on the road against a very good SEC team that won 20 games last season.
On the scoreboard at least, they succeeded. The Seawolves kept pace with the Bulldogs through most of the first half, heading into the locker room down 48-41. But the second half was rough for the Seawolves, allowing Georgia to rattle off a 16-2 run to open up a 20-point lead. The Seawolves did manage to make a late run to pull back within 10 by the final buzzer, proving to themselves that they can at least compete against major programs.
On paper though, the game was a mess for Stony Brook. Despite the point total, the Seaowlves shot just 31.8 percent from the floor, an abysmally low number. What they lacked in efficiency they made up for in frequency: they took 66 shots on the night, nearly 20 more than Georgia did. Both finished the game with 21 made attempts.
That Stony Brook kept afloat at all was owed entirely to the efforts of Carson Puriefoy. The junior guard went gangbusters in the first 20, shooting 8 of 11 in the first frame for 21 points. (Reminder: Stony Brook scored 41 total in the half).
Georgia adjusted in the locker room and Puriefoy cooled off, missing his only four attempts in the second and adding just 5 more points, all from the line. Still, his 26-point performance set a new career high and he ended the day as the second-leading scorer in all of Division I during ESPN’s 29-hour college hoops marathon.
Puriefoy’s reputation as a big-stage player was solidified as well. Last season, he paced Stony Brook on the road at Indiana with 22.
The score differential on Tuesday was almost entirely thanks to Stony Brook’s barrage of fouls. They sent Georgia to the line 48 times on the night after Bryan Sekunda, Kam Mitchell and Puriefoy all fouled out. In all, the Seawolves committed 30 fouls, and Georgia capitalized with 33 points from the stripe to the Seawolves’ 20.
Jameel Warney led all players with 14 rebounds and ended the night with his second double-double in as many games after netting 12 points on just 4 of 15 shooting, his second game with an un-Warney like FG percentage well below his career average of better than 61 percent.
The Seawolves will be back in action and looking to move back into the W column on Friday as they renew their rivalry with Hofstra for the first time in five years. Game time is scheduled for 7pm at The Mack in Hempstead.
The oddsmakers have the Seawolves as a 12.5 point underdog on the road at Georgia tonight.
That’s amongst the more lopsided Division I lines of the day, which strikes me as a bit unkind. Stony Brook certainly didn’t look great in their opener and the program isn’t exactly a powerhouse, but the odds weren’t even this bad last year against Indiana, a team that came in 3-0 last year.
Of course, those Indiana lines ended up being more than fair as Stony Brook would go on to lose by 16. Georgia’s coming off a close 80-74 loss to in-state rival Georgia Tech while the Seawolves…well, you remember.
Tipoff is set for 7pm in Athens. You can catch the game on the SEC Network.
We’ve got a new blog we’re maintaining on Kinja, the same platform that powers Deadspin (which is a must-read by the way). You should check it out. It’s not replacing this site, but we figured there are a lot of Deadspin/Gawker readers out there who might enjoy seeing some of our stuff as well.
There you’ll find a quick story today about how UConn is trying to get in on that sweet New York action by pretending to be New York’s College Team. It’s patently absurd, and writing about it put me in the unenviable position of having to partially defend Syracuse, which as anyone knows is not something I enjoy doing.
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before:
Stony Brook’s offense is finally heating up late in the second half of the season, too late to make a playoff push but just in time to play spoiler in the last few weekends of the regular season.
2014 is shaping up to look a lot like 2013, as the Seawolves offense turned in another solid offensive performance against a struggling Rhode Island team that is still looking for its first win of the season.
It’s their fourth straight game of scoring at least 20 points after doing it just twice in their first seven. Stacey Bedell accounted for two of Stony Brook’s 5 touchdowns on runs of 75 and 56 yards respectively, finishing with a career-high 195 yards and needing just six more to pass the 1,000 yard mark for the season. Bednarski attempted just 17 passes on the day, completing 9 of them for 89 yards.
The grand unveiling of Stony Brook’s brand-new $21 million arena had all the trappings of big-time college basketball: loud music, a sell-out crowd, and high expectations.
But it was the Seawolves players who provided the night’s most memorable moment.
With 12 seconds left on the clock and trailing by one, reigning conference player of the year Jameel Warney stood at the free throw line with a shot to tie or take the lead for the first time since Stony Brook led 3-0 in the opening minutes of the game. But Warney missed both shots, only to grab his own rebound, muscle the ball towards the rim, and have the ball eventually land in the hands of Rayshaun McGrew, who floated it off the glass and in for a 57-56 lead. Columbia’s last-ditch effort from outside the arc fell harmlessly as the buzzer sounded and the crowd of 4,000+ roared.
It was a year of heartbreak for Stony Brook last season. Baseball, softball and men’s lacrosse all came up painfully short in their respective conference tournaments. But the way the men’s basketball team’s 2013-14 campaign ended probably stings the most.
The doors of Pritchard closed for good in March, but not before a final image of the gymnasium being engulfed in a sea of purple and gold as Albany fans stormed the floor when the Great Danes upset the Seawolves to win the America East Championship. With hopes of the NCAA Tournament dashed yet again, the team never found its motivation for their first-round game in the College Basketball Invitational and lost to Siena.
Another great senior class – Anthony Jackson, Dave Coley, Eric McAlister and Anthony Mayo, who all blossomed into great players after coming in as raw freshmen – left without making it to the big dance. But when head coach Steve Pikiell reflects on his emotions when the season came to a close, he doesn’t remember feeling disappointed at all.
“Proud,” is what Pikiell said he remembers feeling. “Proud of our team getting back to the finals, getting another postseason bid, all those guys graduating. Mayo is in grad-school, Dave is in Slovakia putting up huge numbers, Eric had 16 rebounds in his last game in Denmark, and A.J. was the first in his family to graduate college. Proud.”
After a pause though, he adds “tough ending to the year; you have to win every game, I got that, I’ve been through this long enough. Everyone judges you by one game, but we’ve been able to do a lot of great stuff here and we continue to do that. I refuse to have my program judged by one game on one day, we’ve been a proud program for a long time and we’re gonna continue to be that. Our goals have never changed: graduate kids, which we do better than anybody, guys keep playing (past college), and we compete for league championships.”
The one thing Pikiell reiterated throughout the post-game press conference after that devastating loss to Albany was “we’ll be back.” Confidence has never been an issue with the ever-positive coach, and even with no seniors and five newcomers on this year’s team, his faith hasn’t wavered.
“No matter who we’ve graduated in the last five years, players of the year or defensive players of the year, we’ve still competed for league titles,” he said. “We expect to do that, that’s our goal every year.”
This year’s team benefits from having arguably the best returning player in the conference, reigning America East Player of the Year Jameel Warney. He will step into more of a leadership role in his third year with the team, and will be joined by junior point guard Carson Puriefoy III. Last month, they were the only pair of teammates selected to the preseason all-conference team. Warney said last year’s “heartbreaking” end to the season was just added motivation to never experience that feeling again.
“It brought more energy to this year, us being more humble,” he said. “We lost four great leaders, so it’s time for new people to step up. It was a terrible feeling and we don’t want feel that feeling anymore, so we’re working extra hard every day to get back to that spot and have a different result.”
After losing a total of four starters – swingman Ahmad Walker transferred in the off-season in addition to Coley, Jackson and McAlister graduating – there are going to be a lot of new players seeing significant minutes for the first time. But Pikiell looks no further than his two best players for who will have to take their games to the next level.
“The two guys who need to have breakout years for us, quite honestly, are Tre and Jameel,” he said. “They need to truly, every night, play like great players, and I really think the rest of the guys will fill in nicely.”
Despite the relative inexperience of this year’s team, Stony Brook was picked to finish first in the America East in the preseason coaches’ poll for the first time in program history. After the successes of recent years, expectations have grown to the point where any season without qualifying for the NCAA Tournament is considered a failure. It might be unfair to put that pressure on a team with five freshmen, but Pikiell doesn’t see the need to temper expectations at all.
“People put those expectations on us no matter what, so it doesn’t matter if it’s fair or not. We’re gonna try to [make it to the championship game] every year,” he said. “I know how young we are so I know what obstacles we’re gonna face, and we’re playing our hardest schedule in school history. It doesn’t get any easier, as years go by, expectations keep going up. Only one team’s going to the tournament, the odds don’t increase or change, so we’re gonna try our hardest again to be that one team.”
First came the sneak previews of the redesigned court, then news of the official opening, then the date for the first home game. But one question mark was left unanswered about the Seawolves’ multi-million dollar renovation of the old arena: what would it be called?
The Athletics Department opened up the bidding for naming rights to the new home of men’s and women’s basketball several months ago at $5 million, and on Tuesday they announced that the contract had been awarded to Hauppauge-based Island Federal Credit Union in a sweeping, $7 million deal that also includes partnerships throughout the rest of the university.
That means you’ll be watching the Seawolves in the Island Federal Credit Union Arena for the next 10 years. Signage and other IFCU branding will be installed in the coming weeks and months as the partnership continues to unfurl.
It may be a mouthful, but Athletics welcomed the news in a press release posted Tuesday morning: