If you subscribe to the theory espoused by ESPN commentator Digger Phelps that it's difficult to sustain a long regular-season winning streak in tournament play, then maybe it's a blessing in disguise that Stony Brook's 10-game winning streak ended in a 77-55 blowout loss Sunday afternoon at New Hampshire.
Clearly, motivation and energy was a problem for the Seawolves (21-8, 13-3 America East), who clinched the conference title in Wednesday's emotional home win over Vermont. On the other hand, it's a little disturbing that the Wolves didn't at least make a game of it against the Wildcats (12-16, 6-10), who play well at home but aren't exactly a powerhouse team.
Only Muhammad El-Amin and Bryan Dougher, who each scored 13 points, reached double figures. Stony Brook had 16 turnovers (8 of them steals by New Hampshire) and only seven assists, which shows they weren't moving very well and finding the open man on offense.
The Seawolves' defense really reflected the lack of energy as they let the Wildcats shoot 50 percent from the field and 45 percent from three-point range (9 of 20). Ferg Myrick led New Hampshire with 21 points, and Alvin Abreu added 15 points, six rebounds and six assists.
Stony Brook's last lead was at 10-9. At that point, the Wildcats went on an extended 41-17 surge that carried into the second half when their lead reached a high of 25 points at 52-27. It never got below 19 points the rest of the way.
It's been an exhausting stretch run, and the Seawolves poured all they had into winning the America East regular-season title and assuring themselves of at least an NIT bid. So, a letdown was predictable. But now they have to flip the switch back on for the first two rounds of the conference tournament, which begins for them on Saturday at the University of Hartford.
Stony Brook meets the winner of the play-in game between ninth-place Albany and eighth-place UMBC at noon at Hartford's Chase Arena. If they win their quarterfinal game, the Seawolves advance to a semifinal at 5 p.m. Sunday against the winner of the quarterfinal matchup between Boston University and Binghamton.
Should SBU win and advance to the final, it would have the right to host that game at noon on Saturday, March 13. Pritchard Gymnasium does not meet the league requirement for 3,000 capacity, but the situation is expected to be resolved by Sunday night if Stony Brook makes the final. The Seawolves have petitioned for a waiver of the league requirement.