Scoring hasn't exactly been a strong suit for Stony Brook the last few seasons.
But after Thursday night's 70-59 win over Hartford at Pritchard Gymnasium, maybe the Seawolves are turning the corner. Stony Brook trailed 23-20 at the half, but ripped off 50 points in the second half for the win.
Stony Brook coach Steve Pikiell has always emphasized defense. Defense wins games and defense wins championships, he told me a couple of years ago after a hard-fought win over Columbia. In that game, the Seawolves couldn't buy a basket, but they shut down the Lions.
Granted Columbia isn't a powerhouse program, but good teams should be able to win even they can't shoot. And Stony Brook couldn't shoot in that game, but prevailed 54-41. Stony Brook shot just 35 percent from the field, but limited Columbia to 30 percent shooting.
This season, Stony Brook's offense has been as much of a factor as its defense. The Seawolves (10-5, 2-0 America East) have scored 70 or more points eight times already. Last year through 15 games Stony Brook eclipsed the 70-point plateau just twice.
What's behind Stony Brook's offensive surge? Having a couple of options in the paint has opened up the perimeter. Sophomore center Dallis Joyner can play with his back to the basket. Fellow sophomore Tommy Brenton is also good around the basket.
But the real key to Stony Brook's success has been its outside shooting. Bryan Dougher went 5-for-7 from three-point range and scored 26 points against Hartford on Thursday.
He was even better against Boston University last Saturday as hit a career-high eight three-pointers and scored a career-high 30 points. Dougher has hit 22 of his last 31 three-point attempts. It doesn't get much better than that.
Senior swingman Muhammad El-Amin has also been a force. El-Amin, who led the Seawolves in scoring last year is averaging 17 points per game over his last seven. El-Amin had 20 points against Hartford on Thursday.
Although Pikiell is pleased with Dougher's shooting and El-Amin's versatility, he still emphasized his team's play on defense.
"We scored 70 tonight. And I always say this, we always score plenty of points to win games," Pikiell said after the Hartford win. What bothered me was that we weren't defending them."
We built this program on defense. We held them to 40 percent and 32 percent from three," Pikiell added.
Defense is king, but a little scoring never hurts.
Photo credit: Newsday / John Dunn