Tommy Brenton, Eric McAlister carry high-flying Stony Brook past Maine, 79-69
Seldom, if ever, has the term "high flyers" been associated with Stony Brook's defense-oriented style of basketball. But a fourth straight sellout crowd at Pritchard Gym was treated to an array of above-the-rim acrobatics, courtesy of Tommy Brenton and Eric McAlister, in the Seawolves' 79-69 victory over Maine Saturday afternoon.
Brenton recorded Stony Brook's first triple-double (15 points, 14 rebounds, 11 assists) since the move to Division I in 1999, and McAlister scored a career-high 22 points. The junior shot 8-for-11, making both of his three-pointers.
But Brenton and McAlister were most effective as a passing combination as the Seawolves (15-5, 6-1 America East) scored on seven dunks or alley-oop plays, with McAlister recording five of those baskets and Brenton assisting on five.
It came as part of an impressive offensive display in which Stony Brook had five players in double figures, including Dave Coley (13), Marcus Rouse (11) and Anthony Jackson (10). Jameel Warney had 11 rebounds.
Maine (8-12, 3-4) was led by Zarko Valjarevic, who shot 7-for-12 from three-point range for his 21 points, and Justin Edwards, who had 19 points, 13 rebounds and five assists but missed 10 of 14 free throws.
Brenton became the eighth player in America East history to reach the 1,000 career rebounding mark with his 11th of the game, but he took the most satisfaction from his triple-double. "It's huge," he said. "I didn't know I was close until there were about five minutes left."
Needing only two assists to achieve the triple-double, Brenton's timing could not have been better. A 19-point lead had dwindled to eight when Brenton worked his way into the middle of the Black Bears' 2-3 zone defense to feed McAlister and Warney for dunks on consecutive possessions to restore a 65-53 cushion with 4:14 left.
"I'm always looking to go inside," Brenton said. "They played zone, and I knew I had opportunities to go in the middle and read and react. It helped to have these high flyers around me."
Warney has been Stony Brook's most effective low-post presence, but the freshman, limited by a sore knee, was scoreless in the first half, attempting only one field goal. It didn't matter because McAlister got going early, hitting a top-of-the-key jumper and a three-pointer. After Brenton threw an alley-oop pass to Scott King for a highlight-reel dunk and an 18-7 lead, McAlister got into the alley-oop act, dunking for a 25-12 advantage.
But the 6-8 McAlister saved his best for the second half, scoring three straight baskets with two dunks and a behind-the-head layup off an alley-oop pass from Brenton to give Stony Brook its biggest lead at 44-25.
"I'm just trying to contribute more to the team and play with as much energy as I can," said McAlister, whose previous high was 12 points. "I got some good looks, so I took them. When you make your first couple shots, it gives you a lot more confidence to shoot the next one."
Stony Brook coach Steve Pikiell said Brenton was the key to the offense with his play as a "point forward" breaking down Maine's zone, but he seemed especially encouraged by McAlister's improvement.
"Eric has been awesome in practice," Pikiell said. "He's been dominant. The way he played today is how he's been practicing. He took it to another level today, which was great."