What made senior night so enjoyable for Stony Brook was that it was sentimental without being a farewell. The Seawolves have played well enough all season to have earned at least one postseason game at home, so they were pleased to be looking forward, not backward.
Their play reflected it, as they outdueled Binghamton from start to finish in a 76-55 win Saturday night.
“There were a lot of emotions. Binghamton beat us last time, so it was more than senior night,” said Lucas Woodhouse, who with fellow senior co-captain Kameron Mitchell left to a huge ovation with 1:08 left. “We wanted to get them back, we wanted to come out strong.”
A crowd of 4,209 was just as energized to see the home team win its sixth game in a row and improve to 12-2 in the America East — a record that seemed unthinkable in the fall, when the program was trying to piece together a team after the graduation of its greatest all-time player, Jameel Warney.
Warney was at practice the previous two days and was on the court Saturday night at halftime, becoming the first basketball player in school history to have his number retired.
“He sold the place out, so it was a good home crowd for us tonight,” said Woodhouse, Warney’s teammate last season. “I think everybody was trying to impress him, too, to just play well tonight and continue the legacy he created here.”
All of the Seawolves (17-10 overall) wore warm-up shirts that read “WARNEY 20.” Coach Jeff Boals, who was hired to lead Stony Brook through the post-Warney period, said, “I told the guys, ‘Hey, this will give everybody at least four or five more rebounds.’ ”
He was joking, but he was not off by much. Having been outrebounded in a four-point loss at Binghamton four weeks ago, Stony Brook was especially vigilant on the boards and ended up with a 45-33 rebounding edge this time.
Six Seawolves had at least eight points (helped by Woodhouse’s nine assists). A 7-0 run toward the end of the first half built a 14-point lead and pretty much settled things.
“That type of balance where nobody really cares who scores as long as Stony Brook scores — you’re going to win a lot of games doing that,” Boals said.
Still, it is nice to score 19 points, especially if you’ve been struggling lately, as redshirt freshman Akwasi Yeboah was. He made seven of 11 field-goal attempts, shooting 3-for-3 from three-point range. The coaching staff made a point of encouraging him before the game, as did teammate UC Iroegbu, who earlier had overcome his own slump and had nine points Saturday night.
Perhaps most important was the call Yeboah received yesterday morning from his mother at home in England. He usually speaks with her every day, but she had been visiting family members in Ghana for a week and was out of touch.
“She gave me some positive advice. I feel like I had a revelation and I just knew I was going to have a good game today,” he said. “She just tells me to play hard every time I’m on the court and she’s always giving me Bible quotes and stuff like that to help me spiritually.”
In the final minute, Yeboah missed a chance to surpass his career high of 20 points. Even that turned out well because Tim Donohoe converted the offensive rebound for his first two points of the season.
Boals said the whole team got a boost Friday night during a team dinner honoring Woodhouse and Mitchell. Every coach and player spoke about the two seniors, who, Boals said, “both love this university.”
That was in the present tense. They are nowhere near ready to say goodbye.