All the ingredients were present for another heartbreaking Stony Brook loss to Albany on Friday night at Island FCU Arena, but a 7-0 run in the final 42.5 seconds gave the Seawolves their 11th straight win, 69-63.
The key was Rayshaun McGrew’s three-point play after two missed free throws by teammate Ahmad Walker. It gave the Seawolves a four-point lead with 21.9 seconds left.
McGrew played an inspired game with 11 points and 13 rebounds and helped give the Seawolves a 44-31 edge on the boards, including a whopping 23-9 advantage in the second half. Starting with an offensive rebound and assist on a three-pointer by Carson Puriefoy III for a 57-52 lead with 6:21 left, McGrew was credited with eight of the last nine individual rebounds by Stony Brook, the last of which came on his key three-point play.
The Seawolves were shaky at the foul line, making only 10 of 19 free throws, but Jameel Warney hit two with 42.5 seconds left for a 64-63 lead. After a missed shot by Albany’s Dallas Ennema, Walker got the only SBU rebound McGrew didn’t snag in that stretch and was fouled with 22.8 seconds to play, but he missed both.
“I was thinking he was going to make both of them, but you’ve got to be prepared for whatever happens,” McGrew said of his offensive rebound and three-point play. “I always try to get to the offensive glass to get second shots for my teammates. The one I got was an easy two. It made a big difference the whole second half.”
McGrew, Stony Brook’s worst foul shooter, had missed three straight free throws during the final 4:47 and was at 12-for-35 (34 percent) for the season before swishing his foul shot for a 67-63 lead.
Albany’s Peter Hooley, whose three-pointer with 1.6 seconds left in the America East championship game last year beat Stony Brook, then missed a three-pointer, and Puriefoy hit two more free throws with 12.5 seconds left.
Puriefoy led Stony Brook (15-4, 6-0 America East) with 20 points. Warney, who sat out the final 12:54 of the first half with two fouls, scored 13 of his 17 points after halftime, and Walker had 10 points and 10 rebounds.
Albany (15-6, 4-2) was led by Evan Singletary and Ray Sanders with 14 points each and Hooley with 13.
Instead of finding themselves tied for the America East lead at 5-1 and with a home loss to nemesis Albany, the Seawolves took a two-game lead over the second-place Great Danes. New Hampshire and Vermont are 2 1⁄2 games out at 3-2.
The game was the first between the teams since Albany defeated Stony Brook, 51-50, for the conference title and automatic NCAA bid last March. Despite the approaching major snowstorm, Island FCU Arena had a record standing-room- only crowd of 4,109 for a game televised nationally on ESPNU.
“I loved the crowd, and we certainly needed it,” coach Steve Pikiell said. “It energized our guys. It was intimidating.”
The Seawolves downplayed the emotional nature of their rivalry win over the Great Danes. “I wasn’t focused on last year,” McGrew said. “It’s a whole new year. It wasn’t in my head.”
But there was no mistaking McGrew’s fervor. “Ray is a very important player for us,” Pikiell said, “and he’s playing at a high level right now.”