Even though it has won only five games this season, Maine is the highest-scoring men's basketball team in the America East Conference, so Stony Brook had some work to do Sunday to keep pace with the Black Bears in the game and with Vermont in the conference standings.
And the Seawolves accomplished that, building a late 15-point lead before holding off Maine, 83-79, in Bangor.
That sets up their most important game to date this season, a meeting with Vermont on Thursday in Burlington, Vt.
If the Seawolves win, they will tie Vermont for first place and complete a sweep of the season series, putting Stony Brook in position to clinch the top seed in the conference tournament by beating Albany at Pritchard Gymnasium on Sunday. If Vermont wins, it will clinch the No. 1 seed. The highest remaining seed in the tournament final earns the right to host the game.
Sophomore Carson Puriefoy had a career-high 24 points and reserve Anthony Jackson scored the first eight points in a 12-0 run that gave the Seawolves the lead for good at 57-49, although they had a subsequent 15-point lead cut to three in the final minute.
Jameel Warney came off the bench to contribute 15 points and nine rebounds and Eric McAlister also had 15 points for the Seawolves (20-8, 12-2). Jackson had 14, moving within two points of 1,000 for his career.
Till Gloger and Xavier Pollard had 21 points each and totaled 17-for-22 shooting for Maine (5-21, 3-11). Pollard added 11 rebounds and four assists.
When Pollard hit a jumper with 15:35 left in the second half, Maine had a 49-45 lead and was shooting 60 percent from the field (18-for-30). Jackson then helped put Stony Brook ahead by eight, and McAlister scored seven points as the Seawolves completed a 24-6 run that gave them a 69-55 lead.
Warney's basket made it 77-62 with 5:21 left, but the Black Bears closed to within 78-75 on Pollard's jumper with 31 seconds to play. Puriefoy and Jackson then hit two free throws each to make it 82-75 with 15 seconds left.
Stony Brook clinched its third straight 20-win season and fourth in the last five years.