Stony Brook beats Binghamton by 23, faces Albany in semifinals
ALBANY -- Considering top-seeded Stony Brook had defeated eighth-seeded Binghamton by 25 and 26 points in their two previous meetings this season, there was nothing surprising about the Seawolves' dominance in a 72-49 victory over the Bearcats in the quarterfinals of the America East Tournament Saturday at SEFCU Arena.
In a sense, it was notable for the lack of change from the regular season. There was no letdown against an outmanned team, and in fact, it seemed as if Stony Brook's attention to detail was as sharp as it's been this season.
The Seawolves (24-6) held Binghamton (3-27) to 30.4 percent shooting and a mere 14 points in the first half, committed only five turnovers and outscored the Bearcats 15-0 on points off turnovers and 14-0 on second-chance points.
"Defend and advance," said Stony Brook coach Steve Pikiell, repeating the mantra he drummed into his players all week in practice. "We defended, and I liked our focus coming out of the gate."
The Seawolves had a 16-4 lead before the Bearcats knew what hit them, and it built from there to 37-14 at halftime and a 31-point advantage in the second half.
SBU advanced to a semifinal matchup Sunday night against Albany (22-10), which came back from a 13-point deficit to earn a 50-49 victory over Maine (11-19) on Sam Rowley's layup with 19 seconds left.
So the real importance of Stony Brook's dress rehearsal against Binghamton was to gear up for a road game in the semis, as the top-seeded Seawolves will be wearing white as the home team in name only.
"We're down to a two-game season," said Pikiell, referring to the number of wins his team needs to gain its first-ever NCAA bid. "I respect Albany and Maine. It's going to be a war."
If there was one other notable aspect of Stony Brook's opening tourney win, it was that four Seawolves starters scored in double figures -- and the one who didn't was America East player of the year Tommy Brenton.
Brenton had one point, recorded no field-goal attempts and was 1-for-6 at the foul line. But he had four assists and three steals and guarded Binghamton's leading scorer, Jordan Reed (16 points).
Bearcats coach Tommy Dempsey credited Brenton and Dave Coley, who guarded Jimmy Gray (11 points), for taking his team out of its offense early.
"We needed Jordan and Jimmy to take a lot of shots and score a lot of points," Dempsey said. "They draw Stony Brook's two best defenders, Coley versus Jimmy and Tommy versus Jordan. They're fundamentally sound as a group on defense, but those are two excellent defenders, especially matched with our two best players."
Tough defense led to strong offense, and guard Anthony Jackson led the way with 16 points, four rebounds, four assists and three steals. Scott King's 13 points included three three-pointers. Freshman Jameel Warney had 12 points, nine rebounds and two steals, and Coley totaled 11 points, seven rebounds and three assists.
In the regular-season finale, Pikiell suggested Jackson and Coley weren't as sharp as they should have been, but they came ready to play against Binghamton.
"It's a new season," Jackson said. "[Two] games to get to the championship game and three games to get to the NCAA Tournament . . . The focus this week was 'defend and advance.' Guys took it personal."
Describing the team mood, Warney added, "You could feel the intensity in the locker room. Everybody has the same common goal."