Despite the disappointing 79-52 score in Stony Brook's season-opening loss to Connecticut Friday night at Gampel Pavillion, the Seawolves showed enough flashes of talent to suggest they have a chance to defend their regular-season title in the America East conference. Six of their 10 players were making their SBU debut, and freshmen guards Dave Coley and Anthony Jackson and junior college transfer forward Al Rapier figure to play prominent roles.
But there's one obvious void coach Steve Pikiell has to worry about. Forward Tommy Brenton, who led the team in rebounding, assists, defending and all-around pugnaciousness last season, suffered a dislocated knee and likely is lost for the season, as Pikiell said, "unless there's a miracle."
With its superior length and athleticism, UConn outrebounded the Seawolves, 59-33, outscored SBU 24-9 on second-chance points and had a 36-18 advantage in points in the paint. Brenton wouldn't have turned that around because he's as undersized as the rest of his teammates. But Brenton would have made a significant difference.
"Tommy's presence was sorely missed," Pikiell said. "We could have used him tonight."
But Pikiell knows Brenton won't be riding in on a white horse any time this season. It will be up to juniors Dallis Joyner and Danny Carter to take up the slack in the frontcourt, and they were next to invisible at Gampel Pavillion. Carter worked hard enough to come up with six rebounds, but he was scoreless on four shots. Joyner, who was hampered by a sprained ankle, was scoreless on five shots and grabbed just four rebounds.
Asked if he needs a little extra from his two big men, Pikiell said, "Yeah, a lot extra. Like a couple points. I was looking for a lot more…In Dallis' defense, he's been practicing on and off. You could see him lumbering out there. I thank Danny for rebounding a bit, but he's got to get us nine points. He's playing a new role. He was backing up Tommy for five or six minutes, and now, he's playing 25."
The young players should adjust to college ball soon enough with their talent. There aren't any more Big East teams on the schedule. But it's the veteran frontcourt players Joyner and Carter who are going to be needed to step up their level of play the most this season without Brenton around to mix it up under the glass.