Junior college transfer Ron Bracey came to Stony Brook as the potential answer to some of the Seawolves' offensive blackouts, and he backed that up by finishing as the leading scorer on their European tour in August. But four games after Bracey (pictured) tied his career high with 16 points in a win over Cornell, the junior small forward received the first DNP -- Did Not Play -- of his brief SBU career in the Seawolves' 81-68 win over Albany Sunday afternoon at Pritchard Gym.
There was no disciplinary problem or injury issue. It was a matter of defense. Pikiell liked the way starter Tommy Brenton and backups Marcus Rouse and Leonard Hayes were playing on defense against a Great Danes team that averaged 88.5 points in its opening two America East wins. Albany's Gerardo Suero is the leading scorer in the league with a 22.1 average, and he put up 28 against the Seawolves, his ninth straight game of at least 20 points.
That might sound as though the Seawolves didn't do a good job on defense, but they actually held the Danes to 39.7 percent shooting as Suero, Logan Aronhalt (18) and Mike Black (14) combined to score all but eight of their points. "I didn't think he could guard any of those guys," Pikiell said of Bracey. "It was defensive reasons.
"Ron's been great. He's worked hard in practice, and he's done great in school. It was nothing Ron did. He'll have his time, but I tend to go with guys I trust on defense. He'll play Wednesday at UMBC. Eric McAlister, too, has been great. I'm trying to get him minutes, too. I've got 11 guys. I can't play them all."
Dallis Joyner has been a mainstay at center, but the improved play this season of Al Rapier at power forward has allowed Pikiell to move Tommy Brenton, the Seawolves' defensive stopper, to small forward much of the time. That's also where Rouse, Hayes and Bracey play. Brenton sometimes moves back to power forward, but it's still difficult to find enough minutes for all the wing men at Pikiell's disposal.
After evaluating the plus-minus numbers for his various lineup combinations, it became obvious that Bracey's scoring ability sometimes is outweighed by the number of points he gives up at the other end. After playing 22 minutes against Cornell, where he had a favorable matchup, Bracey played a total of 16 minutes in the next three games before the DNP against Albany.
Rapier went through something similar last season when his playing time dwindled, but now, he's averaging 31 minutes per game. The key on a team with such good depth is practicing hard and continuing to stay ready for the opportunity to play when it arrives.
Asked how his reserves have handled the playing time situation, Pikiell said, "The bench has been great. They're working hard, and they want to win. Every game, it's somebody different…We always score enough points, although I don't always know how we're going to do it. But it's all about defense for us."
In Pikiell's system, defense and rebounding are the primary factors in determining playing time when everything else is equal.