Stony Brook guard Tyler Stephenson-Moore puts up a shot past...

Stony Brook guard Tyler Stephenson-Moore puts up a shot past Hofstra guard Jalen Ray for a three-point basket in the second half of an NCAA Division I men's basketball game at Island Federal Arena on Wednesday, Dec. 8, 2021. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

While it’s true that Stony Brook was the preseason pick to win the America East, it was equally true that it wasn’t going to be easy. The talent is there, sure. But so are all the transfers who need to learn how to play together, and the specter of a disastrous season last year.

And maybe they felt a little of that going into Wednesday’s game against Hofstra. They’d come off an ugly loss to Wagner and were going up against a Pride team that has thoroughly dominated them throughout the decades. In order to live up to all that preseason potential, they’d need to play a cohesive game on both sides of the ball, rebound well, and learn how not to get bullied by their Nassau rivals.

Consider those steps accomplished.

The Seawolves (4-4) trailed for almost the entirety of the first half but never relented, eventually breaking through behind identity-forming performances by Jahlil Jenkins and Long Island Lutheran alumnus Tyler Stephenson-Moore, as they defeated Hofstra, 79-62 at Island Federal Arena. Stony Brook is now 6-24 against Hofstra all time, and this is the first time the Seawolves have defeated the Pride since the 2015-2016 season, the last year Stony Brook won the America East. Hofstra falls to 5-5.

"Tonight, you could see how we can get hot and also on defense, that we can be really good if we keep grinding, keep listening to our coaches," Jenkins said. "I really do [feel like we came together]…We took pride in our defense today. We’re still learning each other. It’s a new team, so I felt today, we embraced that."

Jenkins and Moore notched season highs with 24 and 14 points apiece. Moore added 12 rebounds for his first career double-double. Stony Brook shot 13-for-28 from the perimeter and outrebounded the Pride by 54-33. They’re previous highest rebound total this year was 34. They also did it without star guard Elijah Olaniyi, who missed his fifth straight game with a leg injury.

Fittingly, it wasn’t easy. Stony Brook could barely get a foothold in the first half, but they did manage to make sure the Pride never got comfortable.

The Pride led by as many as seven in the first half and led 35-32 at the break. They were mostly paced by Darlinstone Dubar, who scored 13 of his 17 in the first, and its dominance in the paint (they outscored Stony Brook there 20-10 in the first half).

Hofstra went up 42-34 within the first two minutes of the second half, but the Seawolves scored the next 11 — helped along by a couple Hofstra turnovers and overall sloppy play. Roberts’ two free throws with 15:18 tied the game at 42, and Stephenson-Moore’s left-wing three gave the Seawolves their first lead since the opening minutes.

"It was just being confident and getting stops on defense," Stephenson-Moore said. "We’re still trying to figure each other out, but today’s game shows it’s not about the score. It’s about having grit and toughness and that’s something we’re definitely working on as a team. This is a good start."

Jenkins scored 10 points in the span of two minutes to give Stony Brook a 55-46 lead with 11:21 to go and it only ballooned from there, as the Pride looked fully overmatched and outplayed.

"We were awesome today," coach Geno Ford said. "The hope is that Saturday’s game [against Wagner], you hope that’s a blip and then you hope tonight is not a blip. You hope tonight is more what we can be…They guys that were taking minutes tonight, they were terrific, and that’s what you’ve got to do. You’ve got to step up."

It’s one game, and not a perfect one. But for a team projected to be the best, it showed what the best can look like.

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