If Stony Brook could’ve taken Wednesday night’s regular-season home finale against Hartford at Island Federal Arena, the building’s doors would’ve been guaranteed to swing open again for at least the America East quarterfinals.
The Seawolves could have even clinched the second seed and potential home-court advantage through the semis with a win and losses by Albany and UMBC.
Those two indeed lost. But the Seawolves were minus their best player, Elijah Olaniyi, for the fourth straight game due to a high ankle sprain. And Hartford had already won at home by three against them — with Olaniyi scoring 22.
Sure enough, the Hawks beat them, 65-54, behind 29 points from Malik Ellison. But the Seawolves contributed with 31.7 percent shooting and 19 turnovers. They missed 21 straight threes and finished 4-for-26 from distance.
“Offensively, we were a travesty, to be honest,” coach Geno Ford said.
So idle Vermont (12-2) clinched the outright title by virtue of Stony Brook’s loss.
The Seawolves are still second at 9-5 with two left. So they’re still in play for a quarterfinal home game, which comes with a top-four finish. They can clinch with one more win.
They can also clinch the second seed with two wins or still possibly grab it with one and some help.
Hartford is right on their tail at 9-6. Then comes Albany, UMBC and New Hampshire at 7-7. Stony Brook plays at Albany Saturday night and at UMBC Tuesday night.
“It stinks that we shot ourselves in the foot [to clinch the second seed],” Ford said of failing to win while Albany and UMBC lost. “But that being said, we’ve got to fix what we’re doing right now.”
The Seawolves, who were paced by Makale Foreman’s 18 points, led 23-16 with 7:11 left in the first half. But the Hawks hit three three-pointers to ignite a 16-0 burst.
That began a closing 22-3 run into halftime, good for a 38-26 advantage.
Hartford opened it up to 18. Stony Brook chipped it down to 61-54 with 1:28 left. Then Ellison responded with a jumper and a dunk. The Seawolves dropped to 18-11 overall.
Olaniyi is averaging 18.9 points per game. He still isn’t practicing, though.
“We’re confident we’re going to get him back,” Ford said. “But I don’t know when that’s going to be . . . It’s pretty clear that we need him.”
SBU women upset
The Stony Brook women, who sit atop the America East standings, suffered a stunning defeat to winless Hartford Wednesday.
The visiting Seawolves fell, 70-67, to host Hartford which was 0-28 on the season and 0-15 in the America East. Stony Brook rallied from a 16-point deficit to take a 59-56 lead but Hartford fought back.
Anastasia Warren’s three-pointer with seconds on the clock that would have tied the game went in and out.
Stony Brook lost its second straight game and his now 25-3, 13-2 America East.
India Pagan was held out of the game with an undisclosed injury.
Oksana Gouchie-Provencher, Victoria Johnson, Kaela Hilaire and Hailey Zeise all had 11 points for the Seawolves, who finished the regular with a home game against Albany on Saturday.