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Stony Brook finishes non-conference schedule with tough loss

Akwasi Yeboah scores 24 for the Seawolves, but Norfolk State’s zone defense cools the offense.

Stony Brook guard Akwasi Yeboah drives to the

Stony Brook guard Akwasi Yeboah drives to the basket past Norfolk State center Bryan Gellineau during a game at Island Federal Credit Union Arena on Dec. 30, 2017. Photo Credit: Daniel De Mato

It was the final warm-up act for America East play, and it didn’t go well for Stony Brook at Island Federal Credit Union Arena on Saturday night.

The Seawolves were coming off a wonderful win at Rutgers on the heels of a close loss at Providence. But they came home and blew a 10-point lead with nine minutes left on the way to falling to a team that entered with only one win.

Final score: Norfolk State 74, Stony Brook 68.

“I felt like we took a lot of steps coming forward, especially playing against Rutgers and Providence,” said Akwasi Yeboah, a redshirt sophomore swingman who paced the Seawolves with 24 points, including 16 in the final six minutes of the first half. “I felt like we were playing good basketball. Today was definitely disappointing. We took a step back.

“But we still have hope. We know how good we can be. Just go out and fix the little things and the rest will fall into place.”

Stony Brook’s non-conference record to start the season is 5-9.

Coach Jeff Boals said the Seawolves “played really good basketball throughout the course of the non-conference [games] in spurts.”

They will tip off the conference schedule Wednesday night when Maine visits Long Island.

“I think I know how these guys are going to respond,” Boals said. “We’ve responded pretty much [in all the non-conference games] and competed. We had a 10-point lead with nine minutes to go. It’s a matter of kind of just extending the lead, somehow finding a way.”

Instead, the Spartans found a way to become a 2-12 team. Senior guard Kyle Williams scored 16 of his 21 points in the last seven minutes to help power the comeback.

“It’s a great feeling,” coach Robert Jones said. “To win on the road, the road is always tough. But also for us, being on a three-game losing streak and being at 1-12, it’s a great win for us.

“It’s a lot of factors that go into the 1-12 outside of us being a bad team. I don’t think we’re a bad team.”

Jaron Cornish (12 points) made a three-pointer from the left side to give Stony Brook a 60-59 lead with 3:46 left. Steven Whitley countered with a three-pointer to put Norfolk State ahead for good.

Williams hit a three-pointer with 1:42 left to give the Spartans a 67-61 lead and sank two free throws with 1:02 left to make it 69-62.

UC Iroegbu hit a straightaway three-pointer to pull the Seawolves to within 71-67 with 15.5 seconds to go, but that’s as close as Stony Brook came.

The Seawolves led 55-45 before the Spartans went on an 11-0 run that set up the tight finish.

“We just changed the defense to a 1-3-1,” Jones said. “I thought they were getting too comfortable.”

One of the positives for the Seawolves was Andrew Garcia, who made his collegiate debut after two operations on his right knee in 2016. The 6-5 redshirt freshman swingman had nine points and five rebounds in 16 minutes off the bench.

“It’s been a super-long journey,” Garcia said. “I’ve been out for two years . . . Emotions are super-high.”

New York Sports