Entering this season, Stony Brook coach Steve Pikiell suggested the Seawolves would play more up-tempo and rely more on a deep array of offensive weapons, especially with the addition of freshman post man Jameel Warney. But SBU rang in the New Year with a throwback game that came down to defense and determination down the stretch.
Those qualities never go out of style for Pikiell, and they helped the Seawolves grind out a 50-44 victory over Manhattan at Draddy Gym Tuesday afternoon. Somehow, Stony Brook managed to win while shooting 32.7 percent from the field and not having a single player score in double figures.
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Asked if he ever won such a game, Pikiell took a certain pleasure in saying, "It's been a long time, but I like the win part . . . [Manhattan's] defense was real good, and ours was a little bit better. I tell these guys all the time that offense is inconsistent. Defense is consistent."
Reserves Scott King and Anthony Mayo each chipped in eight points to match Warney, who had six rebounds and two blocks. Undermanned Manhattan (3-9) played without Roslyn's George Beamon, the Jaspers' leading scorer who has missed eight straight games with an ankle injury, and it lost point guard Michael Alvarado with a first-half ankle injury. Post man Rhamel Brown led the Jaspers with 15 and added eight rebounds, and they got 11 from Mohamed Koita.
But coach Steve Masiello's extended 2-3 zone gave the Seawolves (9-4) fits. Stony Brook shot 29.4 percent in the first half and got zero points from guards Anthony Jackson, Dave Coley, Marcus Rouse and Carson Puriefoy but managed a 21-19 intermission lead. "We don't play a traditional flat 2-3," Masiello said. "We get after you, and we try to disguise some things. Stony Brook is a very talented team, a terrific team. I think that team could actually knock some people off in the NCAA Tournament. They have a lot of weapons."
Those weapons were muted as Manhattan put together a 13-2 run for a 35-29 lead with 11:38 left. Stony Brook fought back to take a 38-37 lead, but the Jaspers' Shane Richards buried a right-wing three-pointer for a 40-38 advantage with just 4:01 to play.
"Coach always says the last four minutes are the most important," said senior forward Tommy Brenton, who held things together with six points, five rebounds, four assists, two steals and tough defense. "That's when we strap it on and really lock down and work together and communicate more toward the end."
Jackson hit a three, and the Seawolves succeeded in getting the ball inside to Warney for two layups and a 45-40 lead. Describing his struggle to score while limited to 21 minutes by foul trouble, Warney said, "The [upperclassmen] on the bench were helping me stay composed because I was freaking out on the bench . . . [Manhattan] played really good defense. I felt like they had eight people on the court."
The win, which was Stony Brook's Division I-leading sixth true road win, was sufficient for Pikiell, who said: "We had road toughness. Glad to get a win, especially scoring 50 points."