There was a moment midway through the second half of Stony Brook's 63-54 win over Colgate Wednesday night at Pritchard Gymnasium when 6-9 freshman center Anthony Mayo offered what might be a preview of good things to come for the Seawolves (5-6). A 9-0 run that gave SBU a 41-33 lead ended with a big-time move by Mayo that turned into a three-point play.
The big man from Philadelphia caught the ball with his back to the basket on the low right block and then spun to his right to toss in a left-handed hook and draw the foul, which he converted. That instinctive move was a thing of beauty that demonstrated the potential Mayo (pictured) has to grow into a force in the middle during his Stony Brook career.
Just after Colgate narrowed the Seawolves' lead to 49-45 on a three-pointer by Pat Moore, SBU's Preye Preboye penetrated deep under the basket and then flipped a slick pass back to Mayo, who faced up and popped in a 12-foot jumper just left of the lane. That was the last of Mayo's career-high 10 points on a night when he shot 4 of 7 from the field and added four rebounds. For only the second time in 11 games, Mayo failed to block a shot.
"He's getting better and better," Stony Brook coach Steve Pikiell said of Mayo. "He can really shoot the ball. You saw a little bit of that tonight. He's getting better in practice. We're setting up more plays for him to shoot the ball because he really has a nice touch and can score around the basket. He'll continue to improve.
"We're excited about his offensive improvement, but he has to get better on defense. That's why I had to sub Dallis [Joyner] in. He's still easily screened, and some of the post guys have about 50 pounds on him. But he's going to be good. He's a freshman, and there are better days ahead for him for sure."
Pikiell put Mayo in the starting lineup five games ago at Columbia when Joyner missed the first of two games nursing an injured ankle, and the coach has stuck with that lineup, bringing Joyner off the bench the past three games. Against Colgate Mayo played 15 minutes compared to 25 for the veteran Joyner as Pikiell used them as an offense-defense 1-2 punch.
The thing is that Joyner can be effective on offense, too, as he showed with 3-for-3 shooting during an eight-point night that could have been much better had Joyner not missed five of seven foul shots. Colgate had two solid post players in Yaw Gyawu and Nick Pascale, and since Mayo tends to foul at an alarming rate and Joyner is much wider and stronger on defense, Pikiell chose to alternate them.
But the thought of going big with Joyner and Mayo on the floor together is a possibility down the line. "I would like to go with two bigs, but I want three guards on the floor when I go with two bigs," Pikiell said. "There's a lot of things I would like to try."
At 210 pounds, Mayo is a little wispy and can get bumped around. But when he learns to move his feet on defense to get position, he'll become an even better shot blocker and earn enough minutes to make a bigger impact on offense. Then, maybe the Seawolves can play a little more inside-out, which might take some of the pressure off their jump shooters.