The world and the NCAA Selection Committee will little note nor long remember Stony Brook’s 83-39 victory over UMBC Tuesday night at Pritchard Gymnasium. The poor Retrievers (6-20, 4-9 America East) simply were outmanned by the Seawolves (20-6, 11-2).
But while the quality of opposition was low, the manner in which Stony Brook turned a nine-point deficit into a 44-point blowout spoke volumes about the weapons coach Steve Pikiell has at his disposal and the versatility of a team that can win with offense, as well as its trademark man-to-man defense.
You want offense? Ten of the Seawolves’ 12 players scored, five reached double figures, and nine shot 50 percent or better. The only two to go scoreless were starting guard Dave Coley and wing man Lenny Hayes, but they were a combined 0 for 3 from the field, meaning they didn’t force anything. Ron Bracey who gets infrequent run, came in and scored 10 points in 14 minutes on just six shots. That’s efficient. Stony Brook had huge advantage in bench points (42-10) and points in the paint (34-12).
Low post man Jameel Warney (pictured) continued his hot shooting with 13 points on 5-of-8 shooting. The leading field goal percentage shooter in the America East has made 23 of 29 shots in his past four games. He’s just short of the five field goals per game average necessary to qualify for NCAA shooting statistics but would be sixth in the country if he did qualify.
Describing what it means to have the freshman posting up down low, guard Anthony Jackson, who had five assists, said, “He’s a weapon when he’s in the post. He’s leading the league in field-goal percentage. He draws double-teams, and he can pass. He’s a huge weapon.”
The number Pikiell loved was the 20 assists his team dished out. “I like the fact we really passed the ball,” Pikiell said. “Our bigs can pass the ball, and our guards share the game. If you can do that, we’ve got a lot of weapons. Guys who come off the bench can score. I thought we could get points. I was worried tonight about our defense, and in the first 10 minutes, you could see why.”
You want defense? The Seawolves allowed UMBC to take a 23-14 lead on 10-of-19 shooting with 9:17 left in the first half. But as Pikiell said, “We settled down and played that good defense. We got into passing lanes and created offense off our defense. We started one-and-done. They didn’t get any second shots. We challenged jump shots they were taking. We just focused.”
Over the last 29 minutes, Binghamton shot 5 of 38, including 3 of 28 in the second half. Stony Brook outrebounded the Retrievers, 46-31, and the defensive effort led directly to the Seawolves' whopping 31-4 advantage in points off turnovers and 23-4 margin in fast-break points.
Looking back on the slow start, Jackson, who led SBU with 14 points, admitted there was an emotional letdown after Friday’s big win over Vermont. “It was a little tough to overcome,” Jackson said. “We had a good weekend of practice. Guys practiced hard, and it kind of took a little bit out of us. But to start the game, we’ve got to be better. The first seven minutes, we didn’ perform the way we should have.
“But it’s a long basketball game. We had to knuckle-up and defend. I had to bring the guys together and tell them we needed a stop every possession. Everybody has to be a vocal leader and get stops…Our bench was outstanding tonight, 42-10. You couldn’t ask for a better bench in the league. When guys are ready to play, it’s exciting.”
The show put on by the bench against UMBC had to be exciting for Pikiell, too. He knows this is the best-equipped team he’s ever had to try and achieve the school’s first-ever NCAA bid. The way he used the bench against UMBC and kept pushing to the end of a blowout showed Pikiell is gearing up for March and is determined to have keep everyone sharp when it means the most.