Stony Brook coach Steve Pikiell likes to say he doesn't worry about points as much as defense and rebounding, but this season's team has shown on several occasions that it is offensively challenged. After putting together a terrific first half Wednesday night against Cornell, the Seawolves lost a 15-point halftime lead, scored only 16 points in the second half and had to make the last basket of regulation to reach overtime.
But they pulled it together in the five-minute extra session with 17 points to take a 68-59 victory over the Big Red that should provide a big boost before facing a tough Rider team on Friday at Pritchard Gym in the final outing before America East play begins against Vermont at home on Monday. One of the keys to the Seawolves' good stretches of offense was the contribution of juco transfer Ron Bracey.
His 16-point game equaled that of leading scorer Bryan Dougher and underlined how much better the Seawolves (4-6) are when Dougher has an effective complement on offense. In fact, the offense virtually ebbed and flowed with Bracey, who had 10 points in the first half, went cold in the second before scoring the game-tying bucket near the end of regulation and then made a fast-break layup to break the Cornell press in OT and added two foul shots with 22.4 seconds left to salt it away.
"I was in the flow of things," said Bracey, who went scoreless in four games earlier this season when he was restricted to single-digit minutes. "I'm trying to contribute."
Part of the adjustment for Bracey has been getting used to Pikiell's demands on defense and knowing where to be on offense. It's not a matter of effort, just learning the system.
"It's been difficult," Bracey admitted. "There's more detail."
Against Cornell, Bracey was fifth on the team with 22 minutes played, and he made the most of hit, making 6 of 14 shots and bringing down eight rebounds to tie Tommy Brenton for the team lead. He also went hard on defense.
"Ron led us in rebounding, which is awesome," Pikiell said. "It tells me he wants to play. He was aggressive to score, and he's learning on defense. If he rebounds, he'll play."
Pikiell will continue to live and die with defense and rebounding, but after the Cornell win, he also mentioned that he wants this Seawolves team to start taking fewer three-point shots and look to attack the basket more. Bracey can do that, and if he continues to be effective, he's going to find himself gaining playing time as America East play moves along.